Will Maltzan’s “Lens” in St. Petersburg Be Too Murky?

East, West
Monday, August 20, 2012
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Visitors to The Lens probably won’t be able to see all these cool creatures. (Michael Maltzan Architecture)

Last January, Florida welcomed Michael Maltzan Architecture’s stunning proposal for the St.Petersburg Pier, featuring a new tidal reef, a civic green, raised walking paths, a waterpark and many other attractions. Recently however, local marine scientists have concluded that the tidal reef element of the design is simply too good to be true, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. Named “The Lens,” Maltzan’s scheme calls for a figure-8 spatial organization, in which a loop provides a view into the clear water below. But Tampa Bay’s estuary waters are murky—not because of pollution but simply because of sediment—making the water too foggy for any kind of tidal viewing. Maltzan’s ideal emerald waters are expected to remain a fantasy, but scientist and architects are still trying to find others ways to provide an underwater view in the Lens.

A detail of Michael Maltzan’s pier proposal.

A detail of Michael Maltzan’s pier proposal.

One of the proposals includes underwater technology that would enable visitors to see and hear marine life in the bay. Another includes elevating of the sea floor to create an inter-tidal area where birds and marine life could reside. Scientists, oceanographers, and environmental research teams are all working on the project, but many can’t help lamenting the lack of consultation before Maltzan’s proposal was selected.

“The Lens had flaws and those flaws are now unfortunately rearing their heads…What they presented, that PR bandwagon, went too far before the scientific brakes were applied,” Albert Hine, of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, told the Tampa Bay Times. With a new and improved proposal due by October, Maltzan remains optimistic. He admitted that the Key West-like vision for the Lens is impossible, but believes that the reef element is not dead.

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