How the Arsht Center ignited an era of urban transformation in Miami

Miami, FL, USA

The Arsht Center is the engine of arts-based economic development and urban renewal in downtown Miami, transforming an underserved area on historic Biscayne Boulevard into a thriving mixed-use arts and entertainment district. One of the largest performing arts complexes in the world, the Arsht Center houses several acclaimed resident companies, including Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, New World Symphony, and America’s Orchestral Academy. The Arsht Center’s 2,480-seat Ziff Ballet Opera House and 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall are connected by Thomson Plaza for the Arts, an outdoor public gathering space. The complex also includes the Carnival Studio Theater, an intimate venue for experimental productions.

$2 Billion
in economic impact within the first 10 years

A welcoming public space strengthens Miami’s urban fabric  

Situated on opposite sides of Biscayne Boulevard, the Ziff Ballet Opera House and Knight Concert Hall have multiple access points that extend the Arsht Center deeper into the community and foster connection with the surrounding neighborhoods. The buildings are united by a grand oval-shaped public plaza that stretches across Biscayne Boulevard. A popular gathering space with outdoor performances and events, the plaza is an inviting oasis with lush garden terraces, fountains, shade trees, and greenery. In the Plaza’s southwest corner, a 1929 Sears department store tower is preserved. This historic tower is Miami’s earliest expression of Art Deco, now home to a popular café.

In partnership with Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places program, we collaborated with award-winning artists to develop original works. 
4,880 seats
between 3 theaters

Reflecting the unique beauty of an extraordinary city 

The architectural language of the Ziff Ballet Opera House and Knight Concert Hall is a harmonious marriage of opaque Sardinian granite with luminescent glass and metal. These striking iconographic forms combine the two buildings into a single sculptural element that appears dynamic from each vantage point. Large glass and steel curtain walls mark the entrances and lobbies, bringing in abundant natural light and creating an uplifting sense of lightness.

“The Arsht Center rises from Miami’s flat landscape, reflecting the region’s extraordinary light and appearing as a white Cubist outcropping against the horizon.” — Mitchell A. Hirsch, AIA, LEED AP 
Inside the Ziff Ballet Opera House during a performance.  
A dramatic 40-foot acoustic dome floats above the audience in the Ziff Ballet Opera House. 

A celebration of Miami’s exuberant culture 

Knight Concert Hall is a magical venue for experiencing live music. In developing the design, the team focused on creating sightlines that offer an inspiring experience from every seat in the house and instill a welcoming sense of intimacy and warmth. An innovative adjustable acoustic canopy with rings of light swirl above the stage, a breathtaking spectacle works in tandem with the side reverberation chambers to deliver extraordinary sound.

More About the Project

Principal Collaborators

  • Associate Architect: A + S Architects, Planners PA
  • Structural Engineer: Ysrael A. Seinuk, P.C.
  • MEP: Cosentini Associates
  • Acoustician: Artec Consultants Inc.
  • Theater Planner: Fisher Dachs Associates

Project Information

  • Location: Miami, Florida, USA
  • Client: Metropolitan Dade County
  • Size: 500,000 sq. ft. / 46,452 sq. m.
  • Completion: 2006
  • Firm Role: Full Service Architect


  • 2007, Terrazzo Honor Award, National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association
  • 2008, Pinnacle Award Commercial Exterior, Marble Institute of America
  • 2008, American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum
  • 2009, Project of the Year, Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean District Council
  • Principal Project Photography: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO
  • Artists involved with this project: José Bedia, Robert Rahway Zakanitch, Gary Moore, Anna Valentina Murch, and Cundo Bermúdez