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In Miami, Embracing the Bold and Brilliant in Architecture

In Miami, Embracing the Bold and Brilliant in Architecture

Sam Lubell

Anyone who has strolled along Collins Avenue or Ocean Drive in South Beach knows that Miami is renowned for its colorful, geometric and all-around wonderful Art Deco architecture. But architects — inspired by the city’s tropical surroundings, its embrace of the future and its hedonistic spirit — never stopped creating groundbreaking buildings there. In fact, Miami’s newest wave of designs could be its most ambitious yet.

Fitting for a place that cherishes A-listers, virtually every celebrity architect in the world, and many rising stars, have built there in the last decade. The big names include Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & De Meuron, Grimshaw, César Pelli, Richard Meier, Arquitectonica, Rafael Moneo, Jean Nouvel and Bjarke Ingels. The impressive results are scattered citywide, from Miami Beach to the thriving Design District. And if you like parking garages, the city now boasts what is probably the most thrilling collection in the world.


The Design District, about a 10-minute drive north of downtown, has become a more polished, commercial cousin to the Wynwood Arts District just below it. Its boldest piece yet is Museum Garage, a seven-story, cast concrete structure with capacity for about 800 cars and (soon) ground-floor retail. For its surface, the architect and curator Terence Riley commissioned the designers WORKac, J. Mayer H, Clavel Arquitectos, Nicolas Buffe and his own firm, K/R, to carry out what he calls “Exquisite Corpse,” a mash-up of strange, wildly inspired wall-mounted art pieces. “Ant Farm” combines colorful graphics with perforated peeks at the antlike movement of people and cars behind. “Urban Jam” hangs 45 metallic gold and silver car bodies like Tetris pieces. “Barricades” is a mismatched grid of white and bright orange traffic barriers. And that’s just the beginning.


Just when you thought the delirious parking garages couldn’t continue, enter City View Garage, a 600-car facility (also containing some office and retail) on the edge of the Design District, designed by the architects IwamotoScott and Leong Leong, with murals by the famed artist John Baldessari. The bluish eastern facade of the garage consists of a woven series of diamond-shaped aluminum panels, with apertures of varying sizes. You’ll keep changing your mind about whether they’re two- or three-dimensional. Its western frontage consists of a punched and bent stainless-steel surface, kind of like hanging chads, or a menacing cheese grater. From below, it (appropriately?) recalls the bumpy base of a palm tree, and from inside, it creates a hypnotic kaleidoscope of light and shadow.


The newest addition to the city’s exploding art scene is Aranguren & Gallegos’s permanent home for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. As with the Art Deco legends of Miami Beach, the building’s main facade acts as signage, pulling people in with its geometrically arranged, pearlescent metal panels. Some are set back to make the whole building appear to glow from within at night, while elegant metallic lettering below is an effective branding coup. Inside, galleries fill three flexible, double-height levels, luminously lighted via the building’s all-glass north facade, which opens onto a rear plaza.

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