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2012 Award of Merit - Serenity in Scale
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Project Category: Student  - Open Space - Graduate Level

Project Name: Serenity in Scale

Student: Devin Cejas - Florida International University

Length of Design Effort & Date of Completion: Spring 2010

Faculty Advisors: Roberto Rovira - Marta Canavés

The area known as the "Lake Belt Region” in South Florida appears as a series of immense pools clearly identifiable from vehicular roadways like Florida’s Turnpike, airplanes and through satellite imagery. These large water bodies, notable for their bright blue-green color and orthogonal geometry are the byproduct of limestone mining operations in South Florida. This region currently serves as a barrier to one of our world’s most diverse ecosystems, the Everglades, from an encroaching Urban Development Boundary line. 

These water bodies (scars) left behind by the demands of urban development are what I intend to expose and reassess with this design. Considering the significance of the site’s existing scars, it possesses no memoir of a healing process. The intensions for Serenity are to create fresh wounds by carving at the sites existing scars and provide infrastructure for an environmental populace. These fresh wounds will possess the innate qualities necessary to support the basic demands and functions of a pre-existing environment, which will further assist with the sites therapeutic process of forming new scars.

For over a century this region has been degraded from its natural ecological function, commencing with the implementation of nonnative trees, used to drain the region for developable land. Urban sprawl along with the ever-present migrating populace followed and solidified the mining industry’s significance while neglecting to adhere to the consequences a degraded portion of the everglades can have on natural systems.

Today, the Lake Belt currently consists of numerous mining outfits that have devoid the natural landscape of its rich biodiversity by dramatically altering its physical condition. A landscape which otherwise demands water depths of 1’ to 3’ to allow native habitats to prosper, now encompasses a series of quarried lakes occupying an area that is approximately 56 square miles, with depths ranging up to 80’.

The sites geographical location is Lake #3 at CEMEX FEC Quarry and Miami Cement Plant, with coordinates’: 25°53’40.67” N | 80°23’22.13” W. The goal at the east bank of Lake #3 was to convey research and restoration to the public by providing opportunities to learn about the native wildlife and vegetation of the area while conveying the unique qualities of the adjacent mining facility. The designed site includes a residence for a caretaker and two off-the-grid educational facilities. One of these off-the-grid facilities will be an accepted submission for the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition.

Vantage points from two major roads (Florida Turnpike 821 and US 27) located adjacent to the site at its intersection and incoming traffic toward the facility were important considerations in establishing clear visibility of this restoration effort. 

The site’s design adheres to the goals and intensions of the client that not only desired a designed restoration effort, but also required that the site educated all types of visitors of the relationship their mining operation has with their urban environments. This design accomplishes this by taking you on a mining journey unique in experience and celebrating their processes on the site.

A portion of the site is mined further in order to create a similar experience of the adjacent mining operation that includes a filtering procedure which process the limerock according to quality and size. The difference lies in the scale of the sites operation where the intention is to filter people, not rock, while providing for the appropriate environmental condition.

The proper infrastructure needed to support the basic demands and functions of a pre-existing environmental condition is also required and is found within the filtering system. Bridging, up to 60’, will circumvent the visitor through and around the mined-cone-shaped limerock so the visitor can understand the scale of a mining operation while also being carried over the forming scars designed to mimic the Everglade Slough condition throughout the southern to center half of the site.

As the infrastructure bleeds into the northern portion of the site the bridging tapers to ground level where the visitor is now surrounded by the naturally propagated and restored portion of the site. To assist with propagating the site, silhouetted cubes designed to mimic skyscrapers and urban domiciles will now provide places of refuge for a wildlife condition.

These silhouettes traverse the center portion of the site acting as the stitching between the mined and the natural, while supporting the aforementioned bridging and then extending over and into the lakes depths. Although the lake has profound depths a littoral shelf protruding out form the sites edge will provide the required depth to foster natural vegetative growth and wildlife communities in those areas.

Serenity can cater to visitors by providing a series of activities that will enable the visitor to engage the site in an array of ways. Educational facilities can educate on the importance of restoration efforts, kayaks will provide water access and hiking paths transverse the entire site, which together, communicates a narrative of an ecological mining experience.


CEMEX FEC Quarries and Miami Cement Plant administrators and employees for site visit excursions and providing data specific material to assist with the project.

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MISSION STATEMENT Leading, educating, and participating in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.