Project Description

Freshwater Gateway

Belle Glades, Florida

The South Florida Water Management District asked Michael Singer to propose a new innovative visitor education center at a District pumping facility site in Belle Glades, near Lake Okeechobee. The goal of the project is to engage citizens and tourists with one of the most precious natural resources of Florida: fresh water. Through interaction with programs at the visitor center and site, the public will have an opportunity to understand the complex issues and systems of water management, the strategies and history of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the role of the District in their everyday lives. The site, with its convergent geography, offers a unique view of the connections between the diverse interests of agriculture, development and the natural environment.

The conceptual design of the main visitors’ center is comprised of two sixty foot tall towers linked with a rooftop viewing deck. The building’s form resembles a symbolic gateway and is named the Freshwater Gateway, as the site is a nexus point for fresh water between the Everglades, agricultural lands and coastal development to the east. The sixty foot towers relate to the elevation drop from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of the Everglades. Two program rooms in the towers’ interior can accommodate forty people sitting around a large boardroom table, similar to the District’s executive meeting room. A hydro-lift made of two counterweights fill and empty with water, allowing the rooms in the towers to slowly rise and reveal the magnitude of the surrounding landscapes. Interactive displays and multi-media presentations within the rooms inform the visitors about the history, conflicts and compromises surrounding CERP and its predecessor plans. Exiting the towers, visitors emerge onto a boardwalk trail system taking them into wetlands, demonstration and research landscapes, and a scale model of the CERP project. The visitors center building is also proposed with a number of sustainable design elements including solar photovoltaic arrays to power the building and hydro-lift, rainwater cisterns for irrigation and restrooms, demonstration rain gardens for stormwater treatment, demonstration living wall systems, and a native and xeriscape landscape surrounding the facility and parking areas.

This project was developed by Michael Singer as a part of a collaborative design process engaging students within the Creative Thinking in the Public Realm Seminar at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Artist / Designer: Michael Singer
Singer Studio Design Team: Peter Nobile, Calen Colby PE, Trevor Lee,
Richard Rabinowitz Adman Lubinsky and Ignacio Ramos
South Florida Water Management District Staff: Fred Davis,
Marjorie Moore, Tony Waterhouse
FAU Creative Thinking In the Public Realm Seminar Participants:
Elizabeth Atterbury, Jane Day, Tobin Hindle, Marc Rhorer, Ilaria Serra,
Malti Turnbull and Sandra White

Freshwater Gateway