Concrete With A Purpose: Sculptures Aim To Raise Awareness About Sea Level Rise

Dec 21, 2017

In an empty lot near the corner of 23rd Street and North Miami Avenue in Wynwood there’s a giant statue of a man carrying a fish on his back. A few feet away there are smaller human-like sculptures arranged in a circle facing a pyramid, a sphere and a cube.

The molds for these sculptures have made the long journey from Mexico hoping that, as they are created, these pieces of art ignite conversations about how to deal with sea level rise. 

Called “The Fisherman” and “The Witness,” respectively, they were created by Oaxacan artist Alberto Aragon Reyes. The entire exhibit is titled “Metamorfosis/Metamorphosis” and have been open to the public since Art Week. Its opening reception was on December 20th. 

“They represent society and the figures in the middle represent the sciences. We are witnessing what we are building as humans, crossing the line of time because we can see some things from past and in our time,” said Reyes.

'The Fisherman' and the other sculptures will be submerged underwater to create an artificial reef.
Credit Odalis Garcia / WLRN News

They’re made with concrete which was infused with a special additive donated by ECOncrete Tech. The sculptures will eventually be placed underwater to act as a barrier to protect sea grass from pollutants.

“[The sculptures will] basically recruit biology like coral life, sponges, sea fans and all different types of species that are attracted to the naturalization of the concrete bringing life back to the concrete zone which right now is a dead zone” explained Albert Gomez, who represents ECOncrete Tech.

Florida International University is collaborating with ECOncrete Tech, the Shoreline Foundation and the city of Miami Beach to monitor these sculptures once they are placed underwater.

“We'd like to focus on biological recruitment of different organisms on the concrete and what sorts of nutrients or potential contaminants are being taken up by the biological organisms,  so that we can assess whether that concrete could be having a more of a positive environmental outcome,” said Tiffany Troxler, an ecologist and director of the Sea Level Solutions Center.

The sculptures contain a special additive created by the organization ECOncrete Tech.
Credit Odalis Garcia / WLRN News

Troxler also highlighted the importance of using art as a medium to raise awareness to the sea level rise issue. "It can be a common language. [Art is] an incredible mode for connecting people to the issues that are important in Miami and that we all need to address as a community," she said.

The University of Miami is also collaborating on this project. It provided the saltwater resilient rebar that holds the sculptures together.