Books

Looking at Miami as an Architectural Powerhouse

by Ryan J. Simons on March 13, 2014

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The ninth issue of CLOG, the architecture publication that emphatically “slows things down,” focuses on the increasingly growing interest in the city of Miami and the transition from a major shipping port and vacation destination to an architectural powerhouse. This issue is the first time CLOG’s editors — Kyle May, Julia van den Hout, Jacob Reidel, Archie Lee Coates IV, and Jeff Franklin — have chosen to dissect a single city in their attempt to bring their extreme focus to discussions usually lost to the fleeting whims of architectural discourse’s use of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc., as a forum for discourse.

H2dZk-320With over 40 contributors, the topics discussed range from material experimentation, the influx of projects from world-renown architects like Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Frank O. Gehry, SOM, BIG, Herzog & de Meuron, and Zaha Hadid to name a few, the relatively verdant rebranding of Miami as an art city since Art Basel set down in Miami in 2002, the politicking involved with building a civic project, and the friction between the existing residents and the “selling of a lifestyle.” As is often the case with CLOG, the publication’s design, lead by Coates & Franklin who together form the office of PlayLab Inc., use the issue’s contents and context as a background for the overall design.

The thesis of this issue lies in Daniel Rojo’s “Prescribed Tropicalism and the Authenticity of the Self-Aware.” While expounding on the difficulty of designing such a culturally diverse and rapidly growing city, Rojo writes:

How does one design in a place whose built identity is assigned by forces other than physical reality, while also drawing from a form and culture that already exist?

Despite the relatively small population within its 12 square mile border, the city’s airport and shipping ports create a gateway-like presence between the United States and Central and South America. From its incorporation in 1896 to the recent smashing of a part of Ai Weiwei’s “Colored Vases” at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the city continues to create its own identity within a global context.

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The essays create a circuital cross section of the Miami’s timeline from a snow bird destination that created its own climate specific branch of Modernism, Miami Modern (MiMo), to it’s current state of containing multiple cultural enclaves all battling to hold onto an autonomous identity in a city that is constantly projecting and overarching future as the next global city.

Within the essays, there is an urgency to equally preserve the aging relics of the city — Laura Raskin’s “Miami Marine Stadium” and Cathy Leff’s “Magic City: Past, Future, Present” — juxtaposed with the projection of Miami’s future, as an interview with Craig Robbins, David Martin, and Robert Wennet points out, as a place of capital ‘A’ architectural relevance battling with corporate architectural tropes (condominiums, museums, financial institution headquarters). This urgency may relate to the format: a majority of the pieces are short in length and have a relatively small breadth to tackle the massive dichotomy of the city’s vision. The lack of construction images creates a fissure in the thesis of those arguing for the forward movement of the city and it starts to objectify the discussion. Despite this, the editors present each piece as a series of intense investigations that show the whole is greater than the sum of its parts — every essay contributes to the discussion’s multi-faceted approach to place making.

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The issue’s launch included three separate events; the first being a release party in Arquitectonica’s New York office followed by two panel discussions held at the Wolfsonian-FIU and the Miami Center for Architecture. This on the ground engagement with the subject matter has been a staple of CLOG’s approach to publishing, with other releases being held in contextually-relevant venues which furthers the discussion at hand. Good architecture does not happen in a vacuum and CLOG continues to create a space to challenge the ideas of we talk about the field en large.

CLOG: Miami is available on the CLOG website.

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