Arquitectonica (Bernardo Fort-Brescia and his wife Laurinda Spear) are the starchitects of Miami, Florida today: the studio, in fact, has done the largest mixed-function project (Brickell City Center) in progress in Miami at the moment, together with many other works – hotels, residential towers, offices, even a sort of ‘high line’ that runs on the terra firma along the whole bay – that will change the face of Miami.
The Arquitectonica duo know the city very well, having been born and raised there: and it was precisely in this city that Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Laurinda Spear and a group of young experimental architects created the studio in 1977, which now has almost 800 collaborators in 10 offices around the world, and a wide range of public and private international clients, with commissions on five continents. Here is our conversation with Bernardo Fort-Brescia.
ICON BAY IS THE LATEST BUILDING YOU HAVE DONE, AND ITS HEIGHT OF 152 METERS CHANGES THE CITY SKYLINE. WHY DO YOU DESIGN SKYSCRAPERS?
Miami is set between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades. If we want to stop development into this environmental preservation area, urbanization is the only answer. Highrises use less land and create density to finally make mass transit viable and in many cases connect home and workplace by walking or biking.
Highrises create a vertical neighborhood. The units have abundant light and air and, in the case of Miami, expansive views of a city where land and water intertwine like no other place I know. We are finally transforming ourselves from a suburban sprawl to a real city.
IN RECENT YEARS MILAN HAS ALSO REDISCOVERED A TASTE FOR VERTICAL ARCHITECTURE, AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE TWO SKYSCRAPERS, SOLARIA AND ARIA, YOUR STUDIO HAS DONE FOR THE NEW RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT OF PORTA NUOVA. WHAT CHANGES WHEN YOU DESIGN A TOWER IN A EUROPEAN CITY LIKE MILAN, WITH RESPECT TO CONTEXTS LIKE MIAMI OR SHANGHAI?
Every place has its own culture of living. There are values attached to how a home works. In Milan we visited many existing apartments. We realized the value attached to natural light and ventilation in all spaces including kitchens and bathrooms.
We also noticed interest in cross-ventilation and light from different directions depending on the time of the day. So we designed houses in the sky, in one case three pods with three-sided units, to allow enough perimeter and orientation to achieve these ambitions. In the other case we do the same with two pods.
The abundance of light is magical. The magic extends to the discovery of views of the Duomo and the Alps from a vantage point never experienced in homes before. There is one common ground between Miami and Milan: the love for large terraces and outdoor living. There is cross-fertilization too. We are bringing the cross-ventilation notion to Miami and Icon Bay as an example of this sustainable revolution where dependence on air conditioning is no longer viable.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURE OF ICON BAY?
Icon Bay has all units with two and sometimes three frontages. Europeans may find it common, but in America this is new. As I mentioned, natural cross-ventilation and diverse sources of natural light may be taken for granted in Europe, but they are new to America.
The building’s balconies fold to create three-dimensional vantage points at their prow. They create a sculpted façade that, due to the orientation to the sun, generates a crisp play of light and shadow.
The grouping of the balconies creates a secondary reading on a larger scale that is perceptible from across the bay. The building is suspended over a bayfront park. Its pilotis create a monumental breezeway from the city to the bay. The site reconfiguration connects north and south pedestrian and bike paths along Biscayne Bay.
This is not just a building. It is a planning and landscape project intended as a catalyst for a new bayfront link.
by Laura Ragazzola – photos by Robin Hill