”Accessible and welcoming.’’ “A new civic hub.’’ “Iconic.” “Really spectacular.’’ Someone even saw Classical echoes of the Parthenon (Urbanista! will stipulate that it’s square, has columns all around and steps leading up to a platform, and that acolytes will go there to worship at the altar of Contemporary Art).
The superlatives flew by Wednesday evening at a packed Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach as Pierre de Meuron and partner-in-charge Christine Binswanger unveiled the Swiss firm’s fully fleshed-out design for the new Miami Art Museum, to be built on Biscayne Bay downtown. Granted, all but the last one came from MAM people. But at least we know they’re happy with the results (this a view looking north with the bay on the right):
If you missed the lecture and extensive slide show, and can’t tell too much from the rendering above, which doesn’t look all that different from older images, sorry. This is all we have. Blame Herzog & de Meuron’s parsimonious rendering-release policy: Nothing for reproduction until they’re done with “’all the finishing touches,’’ MAM says
You think they could be a bit more eager to let the public see what it’s paying $100 million for? A $10-a-head lecture is no substitute.
Carping done, this amateur finds little not to like about the design. The audience seemed to like it, judging from the “Aahs’’ that greeted some of the images (if only you could have been there).
As MAM director Terence Riley said, quoting a quip from sometime Miami Herald architecture critic Beth Dunlop: “Of course everyone likes it. The Modernists like it because it’s a Modern building. The Classicists like it because it looks like a Classical building, and the Regionalists like it because they think it’s a Regionalist building!’’
Rare for starchitects, Herzog and de Meuron have no signature style, and they’ve evidently expended great effort to give Miami a very open Miami building which looks like nothing they’ve done before.
In brief: No radical departures from the conceptual design, but lots of refinement. We now know the materials: Concrete, wood and – to a degree unusual in a museum -- lots of glass, to maximize views of the bay and the promised Museum Park outside.
The galleries and interior spaces are contained in three levels of unevenly stacked cubes or blocks under a very broad, lattice-like canopy. Long, vine-like hanging plants and extensive plantings create a jungle-like feel and act to “bring the park in’’. The base is a platform atop an open ground-level parking garage filled with natural light and plantings. Together with the plants, water pumped up from the ground to the platform will create a hoped-for, cooling “microclimate’’ for visitors under the broad eaves.
Less satisfying, perhaps, was the design team’s response to the first question from the audience, which touched on doubts about the site’s accessibility to pedestrians, which has been a thread of discussion on this blog (see below).
Granted, the site away from Biscayne Blvd. was MAM’s choice, not the architects’. The team could not have designed a more open, visitor-friendly museum building. And it does have a broad staircase meeting the planned baywalk at the water’s edge (this is a previously released image):
So maybe Binswanger was absolutely correct when she brusquely responded, to guffaws from the audience:
”It’s a reality. Miami is built for cars….You will have some pedestrians, at some point. My conviction is, if you want to cross Biscayne Boulevard, you can. People don’t do it because there is nothing on the other side.’’
Good point, yes. But maybe she hasn’t tried to cross the Boulevard on foot, either.
The Downtown Development Authority apparently has. We hear they are working on a new crosswalk plan for the boulevard. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: The city commission approved MAM’s Major Use Special Permit today. That’s the green light for development of the project.