Checking in on Miami’s landmark firm Arquitectonica
This article appears in the April 2017 issue of The Architect’s Newspaper, which offers an in-depth look at Florida on the occasion of the upcoming AIA Architecture Conference in Orlando (April 27-29). We’ll post the issue online as the conference approaches. Click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.
Arquitectonica was founded in 1977 as a loose collective of designers working in a Miami mall. The original five members were Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Laurinda Spear, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Hervin Romney. Though Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Romney eventually went in different directions Fort-Brescia and Spear stayed with Arquitectonica and founded the most important Miami architecture firm in the world. They became famous early on for their high-rise building on Brickell Avenue, the Atlantis Condominium. The Atlantis appeared above the credits of the television show Miami Vice in the 1980s and helped create the image of a glamorous style that is now associated with the city.
The company is the first in South Florida to have a bigger ambition than the city itself and has built everywhere the country and overseas. The company currently employs over 850 people in eight other cities from Paris to Shanghai and is currently building in 58 countries around the world.
An overview of the company’s projects currently on the boards reveals a staggering number of large skyscrapers and complexes showing the ability to create stylish exterior facades and public interiors.
Brickell town center. (Courtesy Arquitectonica)
Arquitectonica has built dozens of important buildings in Miami, but one that underscores its current design philosophy is the massive Brickell City Center, just blocks from its early residential buildings. The center is a huge 4.9 million square meter facility spanning 9.1 hectares, including an underground car park, two medium-sized office buildings, two residential towers, a hotel with residential buildings, and 500,000 square meters of retail and entertainment space. The heart of the project is a large open air shopping mall covered with a sculptural glass The canopy called Climate Ribbon (designed in collaboration with Hugh Dutton Associés, Cardiff University and Carnegie Mellon University) meanders through the projects and acts as a brise soleil and flange to catch the prevailing winds. Fort-Brescia was commissioned to develop the uniform appearance of the center in its characteristic way of glass and steel.
The Brickell City Center is next door to the geographic heart of the city and The integration of the Metromover light rail station and the easy connection to all major motorways creates a connection to important traffic hubs. Arquitectonica is known for creating stylish interiors and even product design (under the direction of Spear). At the Brickell Center, however, a new city is being virtually designed in a city that is likely to become the new heart of the region.