Just in time for Art Basel/Miami Beach, the developers of the Marquis, one of the set of condo towers that rise over Bicentennial Park like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, have dressed up the building’s unfortunate garage facade with an appealing piece of public art.
The slanted arrangement of laminated, colored glass rectangles by Tom Patti is titled, sure enough, “Miami Rain.’’ (All photographs here are by the estimable Robin Hill.) I have watched the piece go up bit by bit over the past several weeks as I drive to work or take the Metromover downtown, and it does seem to work as it’s meant to, changing throughout the day as it catches light and movement and reflects it on the wall or back to the viewer. Metromover passengers and motorists eastbound on I-395, to whom the piece is oriented, have unquestionably the best view.
The developers are to be commended for fulfilling a pledge made to the city when they received development permits for Marquis. Too many make all sorts of promises during public hearings for, say, rich finishes or landscaping that – what do you know -- never materialize once the building goes up.
But, at the risk of sounding Scrooge-ish, I have to wonder whether the subtle artwork even begins to make up for the awful way in which Marquis and its three companions present their massive, unadorned rears to Northeast Second Avenue, now doomed forever at street level to look and feel like a row of blank warehouses.
Blame can probably go around to developers, architects, the city planning department, hearing boards and – good riddance – the city’s 11,000 zoning code, soon to be replaced by Miami 21. The new, pedestrian-friendly code requires a fuller lining of parking garage exteriors and would probably have prevented the Atrocities on NE Second.
City planners did manage to make the developers address Biscayne Boulevard in a more civil manner, with liner units and street-level retail space – though it remains to be seen how pedestrian-friendly the building fronts will turn out to be, limned as they are by stairs, steps and off-putting railings. Still, several ground-level restaurants on Biscayne have opened or are about to in the Horsemen, a promising development to be sure.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, though, let’s embrace the good with the bad, and appreciate Patti’s gift. One thing’s certain: It sure beats a blank wall 14 stories tall.