Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Miami Modern

Miami's best, a tropical Mies van au-go-go! Biscayne Boulevard's stained-glass Bacardi building might soon be Miami's youngest locally designated landmark, built in 1973. The exiled Cuban company's bat logo is painted on the plaza tiles above an underground parking garage separating the building from the 8-story office building constructed ten years earlier.
by Augustus Mayhew

Miami and Palm Beach began the 20th century
with similar architectural and cultural aspects; today, they are light years and worlds apart. Palm Beach never wearies of recreating the past, its streets on display like an antique shop's imported fineries; Miami is always reinventing the past, its skyline anxious to show a dash of Dubai or Hong Kong.

Because Miami dwells in constant development flux, a city of exiles suspended in timeless anticipation, South Beach, Little Haiti, Wynwood Arts District, Calle Ocho, Omni District, Coconut Grove and the Design District have quickly become predictable destinations. And now, joining these standards, unearthing new ground, the Bacardi buildings are in the process of becoming locally designated historic landmarks. A few blocks to the north, Midtown Miami has sprung up; farther north of Midtown, a new historic district has formed along Biscayne Boulevard.
Looking southeast from the edge of the Viceroy Hotel's infinity pool on the 15th floor of Icon Miami.
On North Beach across the bay, one of Arquitectonica's most recent projects opened during Art Basel, the Canyon Ranch Spa Resort at the historic MiMo-revitalized Carillon Hotel. And over on Brickell Avenue, Arquitectonica's Viceroy Hotel at Icon Miami, the area's first boutique hotel, has opened as The Related Company's "masterpiece" with 21st-century interiors by everywhere conceptualist Phillipe Starck and West Coast designer Kelly Wearstler, author of "Modern Glamour" and "Domicilium Decoratus."

Here is a look at some of MiMo's latest ...

Bacardi Plaza
When the Bacardi family fled Cuba, they moved their headquarters to Bermuda, Mexico and Miami.
With Bacardi set to move its Biscayne Boulevard corporate headquarters to Coral Gables, Miami's historic preservationists acted quickly in designating the company's iconic ensemble of buildings. Bacardi's Caribbean-inspired buildings in downtown Miami are no less design gems than their Art Deco counterpart, Edificio Bacardi, in Habana Vieja, or the company's Mexico and Bermuda offices, designed by Mies Van der Rohe.

During one of my Habana stays at the Plaza Hotel, I found myself a few doors away from Edificio Bacardi with its Maxfield Parrish enameled terracotta relief. Interestingly, the Habana building has been kept predominately vacant while all the surrounding buildings were horizontally and vertically subdivided into apartments, thus causing their structural failure and the collapse of many of them. In Santiago, where the Bacardis first settled during the late 19th century, our group of historic preservationists and architects was entertained at what we were told was one of the Bacardi family's waterfront houses, again kept in museum condition, followed by a harbor cruise on a Bacardi yacht. Pristinely maintained as if the Bacardis had just left the day before rather than 50 years ago in flight from the Marxist-Leninist Castro government.
In Miami, Bacardi's two buildings are set within a plaza atop a parking garage. Fronting Biscayne Boulevard, the eight-story tower was built in 1963, designed by Cuban architect Enrique Gutiérrez with colorful blue-and-white murals, the work of Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand. For some, the buildings represent Miami's first Cuban-inspired architecture.
In Miami, Bacardi's two buildings are set within a plaza atop a parking garage. Fronting Biscayne Boulevard, the eight-story tower was built in 1963, designed by Cuban architect Enrique Gutiérrez with colorful blue-and-white murals, the work of Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand. For some, the buildings represent Miami's first Cuban-inspired architecture.
Bacardi tower, south elevation and north elevation. Brazilian Francisco Brennand designed the mural. Take a look at some of his stunning ceramic sculptures: www.brennand.com.br/.
Bacardi's accounting and finance offices are housed within this building, the work of Coral Gables architect Ignacio Carrera-Justiz . All four elevations are covered with abstract glass tapestries, designed and manufactured in Chartres, that tell the story of how rum is made from sugar cane, based on an original painting by German artist Johannes Dietz. The building's two floors cantilever out on each side of a concrete-reinforced central core, supported by a crisscross system of post tension beams that carry the load from the tensor rods through the central core, plaza, garage and to the foundation.

Midtown Miami
Last week, The Miami Herald did a feature on Midtown Miami apartment dwellers living in empty buildings, some with 90% vacancy. With a Target and Ross department stores anchoring the area's largest shopping area, this area appears more Midwest than Miami, programmed for Anywhere, USA.

Biscayne Boulevard Historic District
The iconic late '50s Coppertone sign was moved several times before being installed at 7300 Biscayne Boulevard, within the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District.
The Biscayne Boulevard Historic District is Miami's latest environmental marketing ensemble, consisting of more than 100 buildings located on a 27-block sweep from 50th St. to 77th St. that includes 16 motels. If you go, have your GPS set, the Biscayne traffic can be unforgiving; parking calls for acrobatic turns.

Despite the introduction of trendy bistros, clubs and cafes on nearly every block, several recent excursions to the district found it lacking in significant architectural fabric with more than several buildings not yet ready for their close up. Although a fervent historic preservationist and an advocate of adaptive reuse for more than 30 years, I am not sure these motels, aswim in asphalt parking lots, are worthy of being saved, never intended to be anything more than overnight stopovers.
Set within a car wash complex, Metro Bistro displayed 1950's basics, one of our fave spots.
The South Pacific has yet to return to its Eisenhower charm, designed in 1953 if you are expecting the Eden Roc or Fontainebleau you may be disappointed.
The Vagabond Motel appears to have lost more than part of its sign, also designed not yet the "elegant funky" the owner promised in 2006.

Arquitectonica at Canyon Ranch Spa Resort within the Carillon Hotel, Miami Beach
The Carillon's front desk has been preserved. The new Canyon Ranch Spa resort uses check-in tables to the side of the original reception area.
The public areas at Canyon Ranch are subdued.
Mobiles in the spa area add to the lightness.
The ocean views from the Canyon Ranch's spa areas were blissful.
Nicholas Rodriguez and Jacquie Axelrod, our helpful guides at Canyon Ranch, where after lunch at the grill, we decided you could drop ten pounds here fast.

Arquitectonica at the Viceroy Hotel within ICON Brickell, Miami
The Grand Entranceway at the Viceroy Hotel. You can't miss it, so trust your eyes rather than the GPS.
With Viceroy Hotels already in Santa Monica and Palm Springs, the Miami resort is the brand's first East Coast venue.
"Our masterpiece," according to The Related Company's advertisements, referring to the ICON Brickell complex. To the left, the Viceroy Hotel, connected by a 15th floor plaza to the apartment and condominium towers.
The Viceroy Hotel lobby has a warm inviting look.
Stephanie Adams at the counter ready to serve amidst a Starck tableaux.
The Reception desk, ready to be of help. Kelly Wearstler's mod-baroque "this-must-be-Miami" look.
The Viceroy Hotel's 15th-floor garden terrace provides two acres of artful privacy with a staged ambience.
Located on the 15th-floor plaza overlooking Brickell Key, the 300-foot Infinity pool is believed to be Florida's largest.
To the north, a view of downtown Miami and the riverfront site where Henry Flagler built the Royal Palm Hotel more than a century ago.
The Viceroy Spa's Water Lounge with ethereal comforts.
The EOS restaurant is on the 15th floor, designed by Kelly Wearstler.
Guests and residents enjoy the rooftop Club 50 pool.
Across the street from the Viceroy Hotel, Arquitectonica's 500 Brickell offers "Manhattan style living."
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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