After watching this video of athletes running, jumping, and just about flying through the Miami Marine Stadium, the Modernist masterwork of architecture and contemporary masterpiece of graffiti on Key Biscayne, I realized the London 2012 Olympics are missing a game: parkour.
From design to setting, the Miami Marine Stadium is perhaps the most striking structure in the city, and, until recently, it was one of the most endangered historic places in the nation. Thanks to vigorous, ongoing activism by preservationists, including Hilario Candela (below), the architect who designed it as a 27-year-old Cuban immigrant, the stadium has a good chance of reopening to the public as a one-of-a-kind entertainment venue. To read more about the building and its architect, read my story in The Atlantic Cities, which features a collection of beautiful photographs by Robby Campbell.
If you’ve passed through the Design District in the last week, you probably noticed a seemingly alien spacecraft in an open field at 39th Street and First Court. If not, here it is.
On Wednesday, the New World Symphony will perform the opening concert at its new campus in Miami Beach. Designed by starchitect Frank Gehry, the campus centerpiece is a 756-seat concert hall that NWS artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas hopes will do no less than fundamentally transform the general public’s impression of classical music. Put simply: MTT hopes the building will make classical music cool. With this goal, it is no surprise he turned to long-time friend and former babysitter (!) Gehry, who, at 81, is one of the world’s brashest builders and has a track record of turning “Where?” to “THERE” with a single structure (see Bilbao).
Of course, Miami itself is on the map, but classical music is pretty much invisible in terms of its popularity among today’s youth. (Name one contemporary composer.) MTT apparently did not interpret this as evidence of the genre’s irrelevance in the age of Beiber Fever, nor as proof of the deterioration of the contemporary ear. Rather he came to the conclusion that young’ns today would love classical music — maybe even tweet about it (@PGlass *only* five minutes of silence? #weak) — if they ever experienced it.
To this end, Gehry devised a building that the masses can enter without ever walking through the front door. Its facade consists of a large, latticed glass wall that allows passersby to see in and, importantly, NWS musicians to see out. In other words, it isn’t a wall; it’s a window through which MTT hopes the public and his musicians will come to recognize each other as fellow earthlings. Gehry, for his part, no doubt hopes everyone will find a moment to gawk at the design of the lobby, a serene composition of papery practice rooms that somehow appear to be falling apart and coming together at the same time.
Besides having one helluva surname, Raymond Jungles also led the project to redesign the stretch of promenade in front of 1111 Lincoln Road, the new concrete-and-glass parking garage by Herzog & de Meuron. According to Jungles’ site, the goal was to transform the area into an “urban glade” in line with Morris Lapidus’ original vision. (Lapidus redesigned Lincoln Road in 60s.)
Whatever an “urban glade” is, Jungles certainly transformed the stretch of Lincoln Road between Alton and Lenox. Here are two cool sketches for the project from Jungles’ site, the first of which somehow reminds me of a surrealist diagram of some grimy bodily function.
Lincoln Road might seem an inappropriate place to start a blog whose mission is essentially to discover Miami’s secret heart (or establish that it doesn’t have one). Lincoln Road — by which I mean the eight-block promenade bound by Alton Road in the west and Washington Avenue in the east — is certainly no secret. A skinnier version of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas (skinnier in both width and waistlines), Lincoln Road on almost every night of the year teems with flawless women, leering men, laughing/yawning/bawling children, second-rate buskers, sunburnt tourists, their necks hung heavy with DSLRs, invisible beggars, tefillin-entangled Hasidim, perky hostesses, and fugitive parrots cawing hysterically among the palm fronds (they escaped from the zoo during a hurricane, I hear). It is one of the places South Beach hotels brag about being nearby, and it boasts national retail stores from Victoria’s Secret to Ghirardelli Chocolate to Williams-Sonoma.
Point being: it’s a known quantity, the kind of place smug locals abandon to the sap tourists in favor of a gritty dive bar with sticky walls and no identifiable women. Nonetheless, by choice and by default, I have spent quite a bit of time there. It’s a vulgar place, fueled by lust, greed, and vanity — the three sins are neatly synthesized in the leukemic mannequins striking Pompeiian poses in the storefront windows — but, honestly, I kind of like it.