Shohei Shigematsu Masterminds 7-Mile Underwater Sculpture Park in Miami
Slated to open in 2021, Florida’s first underwater sculpture park and artificial reef will protect the local marine life and enhance coastal resilience
Saving the planet is no longer just a subject of political debate but a mission at the heart of many artist and designers’ practices. Shohei Shigematsu, one of Galerie’s Creative Minds, is now taking that ethos to new heights with the first underwater public sculpture park, snorkel trail, and artificial reef. Developed in collaboration with Coral Morphologic, the BlueLab Preservation Society, and researchers from the University of Miami, the groundbreaking project is a response to global climate change, which causes the rise of sea levels and damage to coral reefs off Miami’s coast.
Dubbed “ReefLine,” the aquaculture project will function as an artificial reef to protect the city’s marine life and ensure costal resilience while also providing a critical habitat for endangered reef organisms—including six endemic species of coral—and enhancing biodiversity.
Shigematsu, a partner at Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA, is designing the masterplan featuring a geometric modular unit crafted out of concrete that can be stacked and deployed from South Beach. Devised in collaboration with a group of marine biologists, researchers, architects, and coastal engineers, the form provides layered zones for coral growth and exploration, while the stairs spiral around a central forum for underwater activities.
“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,” says celebrated cultural placemaker Ximena Caminos, who is the artistic director of the initiative.
Completed in phases, the first mile is slated to open next December during Art Basel in Miami Beach, featuring permanent installations by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich and Shigamatsu himself. Erlich’s piece is an underwater incarnation of his buzzy sand-sculpted traffic jam he devised for the 2019 edition of the fair, where he reframed the cars and trucks as vehicles for environmental change.
“Climate change and its consequences are no longer a matter of perspective or opinion,” Erlich explained in a statement. “The climate crisis has become an objective problem that requires immediate solutions. As an artist, I am in a constant struggle to make people aware of this reality, in particular, the idea that we cannot shrink away from our responsibilities to protect the planet.”
The next leg of the project is already on the horizon, with artists Ernesto Neto and Agustina Woodgate—both of whom are known for their environmental and nature-focused practices—having been tapped for future commissions.