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OMA plans Miami’s first underwater sculpture park and artificial reef

Directed by Ximena Caminos with the design led by OMA's Shohei Shigematsu, Miami’s new underwater installation aims to preserve city’s coastal wealth and boost ecological tourism.

by STIRworldPublished on : Nov 21, 2020

With its first phase set to be launched in 2021, Miami welcomes its newest eye-catching installation, The ReefLine. This large-scale environmental public art project has been designed by Shohei Shigematsu, a partner of OMA, under the artistic direction of Ximena Caminos, the Chair of BlueLab Preservation Society. The ReefLine is a seven-mile long underwater sculpture park, designed with the intention to not only protect Miami’s overall marine health but to also bring artistic and environmental awareness to those who visit.

Aerial View of the ReefLine Masterplan | Underwater ReefLine | OMA | STIRworld
Aerial view of the ReefLine masterplan Image: Courtesy of OMA

Collaborating with a group of expert marine biologists, architects, coastal engineers as well as the Coral Morphologic and the University of Miami Researchers, OMA is set to design the ReefLine’s masterplan along with a unique sculpture within it. Along with being an artistic delight, the ReefLine functions as a much needed habitat for endangered coral reef species while also promoting biodiversity and improving coastal resilience.

 The visualisation of the masterplan - detail | Underwater ReefLine | OMA | STIRworld
The visualisation of the masterplan - detail Image: Courtesy of OMA

The masterplan of the ReefLine has been designed to mould itself to the natural topography of the sea-bed. It is a concrete, geometric modular unit which can be deployed and arranged from South Beach to the North. The artificial ‘living breakwater’ will perform as a connective body for the overall masterplan to be executed, and it will be accentuated by several site-specific installations to complete the project.

Rendering of Leandro Elrich's 'Concrete Coral' for The Reefline| Underwater ReefLine | OMA | STIRworld
Rendering of Leandro Elrich's 'Concrete Coral' for The Reefline Image: Courtesy of Leandro Elrich Studio

On the process of collaborating with Ximena Caminos, Shohei Shigematsu, who is the OMA partner in New York, says: “We are excited to collaborate again with Ximena on a project that brings together culture and community. The ReefLine is unique because it brings attention to and mitigates the dangers of climate change in Miami, while simultaneously enriching the city’s vivid art scene. We look forward to working with the diverse group of experts and professionals on our first underwater cultural masterplan and sculpture".

Shohei Shigematsu’s sculpture in ReefLine | Underwater ReefLine | OMA | STIRworld
Shohei Shigematsu’s sculpture in ReefLine Image: Courtesy of OMA

The first mile of ReefLine is set to open in December 2021, featuring permanent installations made by Argentina-based conceptual artist Leandro Elrich and Shigematsu. Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and Agustina Woodgate have been invited to do the subsequent commissions for the ReefLine. Elrich’s exhibit will be an underwater version of the sand-sculpted “traffic jam” from his well-known work titled Concrete Coral. This work was originally commissioned by the City of Miami Beach during Art Week Miami Beach in 2019, and it finds its home again underwater in this new site-specific installation, which will reframe cars and trucks – portraying them as symbols of looming environmental danger.

Shigematsu’s sculpture on the other hand, works with the nature of weightlessness underwater. Taking The Stair, an ordinary architectural element and taking its framework of directionality and movement, it is taken out of its normal circumstances and transformed into an underwater folly. Similar to the coral atoll, which is a ring-shaped formation, a series of serpentine spiral staircases create a three-dimensional structure, which is reminiscent of marine life. The stairs rotate as well, around a central forum which doubles as a place for underwater gathering and activities. This organic form also provides a layered zone coral for the reefs to grow and latticed spaces which can be explored underwater.

A closer look at Shigematsu’s underwater stair sculpture | Underwater ReefLine | OMA | STIRworld
A closer look at Shigematsu’s underwater stair sculpture Image: Courtesy of OMA

In terms of what ReefLine will do for the city, Ximena Caminos says: “This series of artist-designed and scientist-informed artificial reefs will demonstrate to the world how tourism, artistic expression, and the creation critical habitat can be aligned. The ReefLine is a singular investment in civic infrastructure, public art and environmental protection that will pay dividends over the coming decades and attract ecologically-minded tourists and art lovers to Miami”. The project has been financially supported by a grant from the Blanatvik Family Foundation as well as Knight Foundation’s Art Challenge 2019 Award, along with an endorsement from the XPRIZE foundation.

(Text by Shreeparna Chatterjee, editorial trainee at

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