A huge canopy made of steel and glass will help to cool down shoppers during torrid weather conditions at an open air mall on the Miami waterfront.

The “climate ribbon” is essentially a gigantic overhead trellis featuring a complex, highly sinuous design. The steel framework of the trellis is encased in a layer of insulating glass and festooned with a series of immense fabric slats, lending it the festive appearance of novelty ribbon.

Image of the underside of the Climate Ribbon Image credit: Hugh Dutton Associes

The underside of the Climate Ribbon
Image credits: Sébastien Perrault

The canopy will run for a distance of more than 300 metres above the main thoroughfare of the $1 billion mixed-use Brickell City Centre in Miami, covering a total area of approximately 150,000 square feet over four city blocks of waterfront real estate.

The novel appearance of the climate ribbon belies the sophistication of its design, which was developed by a raft of collaborators including real estate developer Swire Properties, German design firm Gartner, Paris-based design firm Hugh Dutton Associes, project architect Arquitectonica, Carnegie-Mellon University and Cardiff University.


It could potentially be the largest passive shading cooling device ever built in the US, dispensing with the need for huge amounts of air conditioning to adjust temperature levels.

The design of the Climate Ribbon employs a number of ingenious methods to control the atmospheric conditions of the waterfront mall, essentially creating a “micro-climate” that is far more comfortable for shoppers.

The belly of the ribbon consists of an undulating structure that is capable of harnessing Miami’s ocean trade winds by deftly capturing and channeling them along its angled surfaces. This significantly increases ventilation levels, keeping air flow at speeds of between six and nine knots throughout the structure, and thus enhancing their cooling effect.

The ribbon is also draped with gigantic fabric panels that are precisely aligned in order to mitigate the impact of glaring sunbeams, while still permitting the penetration of sufficient levels of light during the day in order to confer the shopping mall with an outdoors ambiance.

The ribbon’s enhanced ventilation in tandem with its sophisticated solar shading are expected to keep temperatures at pleasant levels during Miami’s sweltering summer without consuming the copious amounts of energy required by modern HVAC systems.

In addition to its climate control properties, the winding surfaces of the climate ribbon are designed to channel as many as 5 million gallons of rainwater each year to multiple above-ground storage cisterns for recycling, without the need for electrical pumps.

With a hefty price tag of US$30 million, Swire Properties hopes the Climate Ribbon will shore up the Brickell City Centre’s sustainability and green building credentials and help it nab LEED certification in neighbourhood development.

Given the similarities between Florida and many parts of coastal Australia in terms of climate conditions, iterations of the Climate Ribbon could potentially prove a winner locally – particularly given the popularity of pedestrian street malls.