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Can mapping latent up-zoning codes reveal urban fractures in district morphologies? 
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Overtown, Miami
Harvard Graduate School of Design

Cities are created from colliding forces with multiple origins & intentions. Many of these forces are not immediately visible, deliberately obscured for political, economic, social, or discriminatory reasons. Miami, with specific focus on its neighborhood of Overtown, epitomizes this ‘multiplicity’ due to its layered histories. As 21st century Miami transitioned into a global hub, Overtown saw its predominantly Black population experience public & private disinvestment, decimated by redlining & segregation through urban renewal. Today, up-zoning & real estate speculation compounds pressures on the neighborhood that pose acute tensions yet potential transformative opportunities that can be revealed by illustrating and uncovering these latent ‘multiplicities’.

Cartographic Mapping
In collaboration with Ting Liang

This series of analytical mappings depict a research investigation looking at urban development in the city of Miami, with the focus centered around the district of Overtown. Titled “Multiple Miamis: Discontinuity of the Imaginary”, we illustrate the paradoxical nature of Miami as a mythological city of pleasure in the urban imaginary, yet a working city of prejudice as it grappled with urban growth exacerbated by this existential narrative of paradise planning. 


The cartographic mapping below reveals how the Form-Based Zoning code Miami 21, being implemented in the city today, has intensified a collision of disparate urban typologies in the district of Overtown, while densities in adjacent neighborhoods remain morphologically confluent. Miami 21's transect-zoning regulates urban form relative similar density in its downtown core and in its low-rise neighborhoods like Little Haiti and Little Havana. However, Overtown, located at the intersecting collision between these more affluent neighborhoods, is transect-zoned from single-family dwellings all the way to high-rise towers. This leads to a mashup of discrepant urban typologies in direct adjacencies, which contributes to the disjointed experience of its urban realm.

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 The mapping below projects future land development in Overtown, Miami on vacant lots based on transect zoning by Miami 21. Projectively illustrating planned new development construction (in dark pink) together with latent up-zoning by the city (in purple) reinforces the original fracturing of the district into 3 distinct quadrants. Furthermore, much of this potential new development exists on private lands (in light pink), creating morphological tension with publicly-owned land land (in blue) that mostly hold city-owned low-rise public housing.  

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The cartographic mapping on the right illustrates how the initial fracturing of Overtown by the implementation of its freeway via urban renewal in the 1960's that led to its redlining and exacerbated segregation has been acutely intensified by Miami 21's Form-Based code. 


Here, we interpret and illustrate Miami as a superstructure, exposing the structural exoskeleton that constitutes Miami’s urban morphology as an abstract figure, analyzed & represented at a scale akin to an urban kit-of-parts. Doing so reveals a collision of 5 distinct typological urban mattes that surround and sub-fracture the district of Overtown into a collection of disparate morphological parts.

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While Miami 21 envisions transect-based zoning to theoretically ensure a smooth succession of morphological densities, a collision of mismatched transects creates fractured edges in Overtown, in which urban form on either side of each transect creates a disjointed pedestrian street realm. Each of these mismatched transect corridors are identified in pink below, of which each urban experience of that transect (the public realm, street section, and public-facing building facades) are visualized in a spatialized axonometric form.

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A note on drawing methodology & color 

We utilized the perpendicular oblique projection as a consistent drawing methodology as a way to extract, interpolate, and tease out narratives within the data not immediately visible by just the flat layering of GIS (Geographic Information System Mapping). The perpendicular oblique gives us both the ability to draw and understand data planometrically, but at the same represent  information vertically in the same plane via the axonometric oblique projection. This allows us to expose latent non-physical data and juxtapose it with the physical spatialized geographies of the plan.

Color was used with very specific intention in our project. We very much took Miami to heart, in that the colors, the gradients, the hues of the city (from cyan to magenta) are sited in the imaginary of its historical narrative through pop culture representation (from Miami Vice to Scarface). We wanted to contrast & juxtapose this urban imaginary of Miami as a city of leisure & pleasure (as represented by color) with the working city of Miami that holds a deep history of segregation and discrimination (as represented by the content). In this way, the mapping of the colors are both particularly sited to the city, and at the same time a critique on the way these colors have been utilized in its historical urban imaginary: in pop culture, advertising, and media.

Read our more in-depth research here:

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Can mapping latent up-zoning codes reveal urban fractures in district morphologies?