HERZOG & DE MEURON IS "DECONSTRUCTING
STUPID ARCHITECTURE" IN MIAMI

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Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our first movie from Miami, Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron claims the Swiss architecture studio is trying to create a "new vernacular for Miami" that eschews sealed, air-conditioned buildings in favour of more "transparent or permeable" structures.

Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron
Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron. Copyright: Dezeen

"Very often, if you go to a place, you're asked to do architecture that relates to that place, stylistically, or typologically or whatever," says Herzog, who was speaking at the press preview of the new Pérez Art Museum in downtown Miami, which opened on Wednesday. "What would that be in Miami?"

Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron
Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron

"The most famous style or vernacular here is the art deco [buildings] on Ocean Drive, but this is relatively stupid architecture; it is just blind boxes, which have a certain decoration, like a cake or pastry, with air conditioning that makes a very strict difference between inside and outside."

Ocean Drive, Miami
Ocean Drive, Miami

He continues: "This is very North American architecture that doesn't relate to or exploit the amazing conditions that you find here: the amazing climate, the lush vegetation, the seaside, the sun. We wanted to do buildings deconstructing this, opening up these structures and making them transparent or permeable."

1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron
1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog gives the example of 1111 Lincoln Road, Herzog & de Meuron's sculptural car park on South Beach, which was completed in 2010 and is open to the elements on all sides.

1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron
1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron

As well as providing parking spaces for 300 cars, the car park includes shops, bars and restaurants and hosts parties, weddings and other events throughout the year.

1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron
1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron

"It's just a stupid garage," he says. "But the new thing is that we made the building double height so it opens the possibility to have different floor heights and different rooms."

1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron
1111 Lincoln Road car park, Miami, by Herzog & de Meuron

"Parking cars [in this building] is an experience. We introduced shops and restaurants and little bars and other possibilities for people to hang out and use the entire building, not just to make a blind box for cars."

Parrish Art Museum by Herzog & de Meuron
Parrish Art Museum by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London and Parrish Art Museum on Long Island are two other examples of galleries that "give right answers to different places", Herzog says.

Tate Modern in London by Herzog and de Meuron
Tate Modern in London by Herzog and de Meuron

"I compare it to cooking," he explains. "We try to use what is available in every season or in a certain region and not to try to have an ambition to do something exquisite in a place where it wouldn't make sense, but to fully exploit whatever is there."

Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron
Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron

The Pérez Art Museum features large, over-hanging eaves to provide shelter from the sun and rain of Miami's tropical climate, while suspended columns covered in vertical gardens by botanist Patrick Blanc hang from the roof to emphasise the building's relationship to its surroundings.

Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron
Perez Art Museum, Miami, by Herzog and de Meuron

"I think this museum is an interesting attempt [to exploit the natural climate in Miami]," Herzog says. "Somehow it introduces a type of building that could become a new vernacular for Miami."

Our MINI Paceman in Miami
Our MINI Paceman in Miami

We drove around Miami in our MINI Cooper S Paceman. The music in the movie is a track called Jewels by Zequals. You can listen to the full track on Dezeen Music Project.

  • Dave Carcamano

    I believe you can make buildings that are not stupid and at the same time not as soulless as this one.

  • DaniB

    Just to add a little more to this discussion, the vernacular architecture of Miami was the Tequesta chickees, which were raised wooden floors raised above the ground on posts and supporting a thatched roof. (Actually very similar to the museum)

    Then when the Europeans came in the late 1880s the build wooden buildings. The Barnacle in Coconut Grove is a good example. Then in the 20s and 30s the land boom happened in Miami Beach and the architecture of the time was Art Deco. It was actually adapted for the climate with large eyebrow windows for shade and windows for cross ventilation.

    What happened in Miami though was that the city really grew after World War II and that is when air conditioning became available. In the summer, you can’t live here without it!

    So, basically all the problems of climate control were resolved by air conditioning. Any vernacular architecture that existed before was forgotten. Instead during the boom times, people began to build more and more homes that resembled Renaissance Spanish and Italian buildings.

    So what Jacques is saying in a way is true. There is no vernacular because the people here forgot it or don’t care for it preferring to reference Italian villas.

  • DaniB

    One final thing if Jaques or anyone else reads this. If you want to change the vernacular, the place to do it is in the suburbs of Miami. Please consider a home for middle income family or a mid-rise building. Maybe even being involved with a home developer would be a good idea.

    Miami needs critical architects like Herzog & de Meuron but to really change the built environment it would be good to have built examples. The way it works in Miami is that people build what others built so nobody wants to take a chance and build something new unless someone else has done it.

    Also thank you for 1111, the PAMM and the Sunny Isles tower!

  • Damien

    Bloody hell this guy speaks so much sense.

  • El Jiji

    I don’t think Jacques really believes that this museum will actually change anything in the large scheme of things – the totality of architectural production on an urban scale in Miami. He just attempts to create a model of what could have been a vernacular style for this climate in a preindustrial society.