Herzog & de Meuron Brings a New Museum to Miami

WITH INLETS AND OCEAN Sleek skyscrapers on one side and sprawling urban infrastructure on the other, Miami’s new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is in a dynamic convergence of untidy urban vitality and natural beauty. “Every place has extraordinary potential, and we have to find out what that is,” says Jacques Herzog, who, together with his senior partners Pierre de Meuron and Christine Binswanger, was inspired by the local topography. The 200,000 square meter center for modern and contemporary art blends in with its surroundings, almost as if the architects had deconstructed and reassembled a conventional museum, with only the essentials remaining: a skeleton with columns around the perimeter supporting open air -Terraces, an overhead trellis and galleries that float in it like independent volumes. The result is a tacitly iconic cultural hub for a city on the cusp of major change.

“This is a young city, and while it is fractional in many ways, it is also developing faster than most American cities,” said Thom Collins, director of PAMM. “It has become a design city, an art city.” In the past decade, new neighborhoods have sprung up in the industrial hinterland, such as the Design District and Midtown and Wynwood, with dozens of galleries. The architecture has followed suit, especially Herzog & de Meuron. Their parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road, which opened in 2010, has become a symbol of the revitalized city. Other high profile projects by brand architects include Frank Gehry’s New World Center; a planned congress center by Rem Koolhaas; and a possible 60-story “exoskeleton” tower by Zaha Hadid; Not to mention the 57-story Jade Signature Tower, also designed by Herzog & de Meuron, which is due to open in 2016. But with all the architectural pyrotechnics, there was no symbolic linchpin for Miami’s transformation from relative backwater to international art mecca. This is the role PAMM hopes to fulfill: a central goal in an otherwise off-center location.

Herzog & de Meuron are suitable for such a challenge. The Pritzker Prize-winning company has years of experience working with complex urban conditions and has designed numerous art-related institutions around the world – 14 in total – including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the de Young Museum in San Francisco; an exhibition hall in Basel, Switzerland; and more recently the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. There are no repeats. Each building is designed to fit its unique setting – elongated barns for the Parrish, a twisted tower for the de Young – and they all share a similar sense of discovery. If Herzog & de Meuron have a uniform modus operandi, it’s likely because their buildings don’t have a uniform appearance.

At PAMM, the architects took a close look at both the native vegetation and the local architectural styles. This included Stiltsville, a small community of handcrafted bungalows that stand on wooden and concrete pylons in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Herzog compares the museum itself to a petrified wooden structure, a kind of temple that rises to capture water views and air currents blowing away from the bay. “The breeze goes right through the building,” he notes. Rigid concrete forms are complemented by a series of “hanging gardens” that surround the museum and dangle from the roof like ropes made of Spanish moss or the aerial roots of a banyan tree. The slender green pillars were designed by French horticulturist Patrick Blanc using 54,700 plants and 77 local species, including an exotic mix of salvia, house palm, begonia and Artemisia arborescens. “The vegetation colonnade acts as a buffer between the inside and the outside of the museum,” says Herzog. “That’s why it’s more important than mere decoration.”

PAMM is a cultural sieve of a museum that filters art, architecture and weather through its open floor plan. The galleries are arranged in a non-linear pattern that gives the viewer the freedom to move in and out of the art spaces without following a set order. “It is important for artists to create their work on site,” says Herzog, explaining how the free-form arrangement offers flexible exhibition spaces for experimental art, performance and multimedia installations.

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