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Latin American Art Museum in Miami Showcases Openness

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

A modern and contemporary art museum planned for Miami combines rotated floor plates and wide-open terraces to welcome visitors and maximize ocean views.

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In plan, the floors of the Latin American Art Museum in Miami will be quadrilateral shapes with rounded sides, each rotated with respect to one another to maximize views and breezes from the bay. © FR-EE/Fernando Romero Enterprise

February 9, 2016—The Latin American Art Museum (LAAM) planned for downtown Miami is generating buzz. Designed by FR-EE, a New York- and Mexico City-based architecture and design firm, the museum will be nestled between Miami-Dade College's Wolfson Campus and Miami's Biscayne Bay waterfront, yet within the city's urban core. Its sleek, angular, stark-white design focuses on wide-open exterior spaces and deep cantilevers to maximize views and sea breezes. Offering the Miami Bay as a backdrop for large-scale sculptures, the design maximizes the uninterrupted flow of both visitors and bay breezes that will circulate easily through the museum.

"It's a hybrid of a museum and a park, with a mix of programs that will allow this project to be more than a building," said Sergio Rebelo, a partner of FR-EE and the director of its New York office, who wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

In plan, the building comprises quadrilateral floor plates with rounded sides. Each floor plate is rotated above the other, a decision that turns the floors into open-air plazas. The angular building is expected to become an icon within the city, taking a place in the international arts community with programming that will make it a cultural hub, according to the architects.

In addition to galleries, the building will also provide a ground-level stepped plaza that will act as an extension of the street; terraces that have been designed as sculpture gardens; a theater; a 3,000-seat conference center; exhibition space; and what the architects are referring to as "culinary experiences" and a restaurant. (The architects liken the marketplace that will host the diverse food stands that will form the culinary experiences to Eataly in New Yorkand the Mercado de San Miguelin Madrid, Spain.)

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The structure is intended to be a hybrid of a museum and park, including a stepped plaza that will engage the community. The plaza and terraces will double as sculpture gardens, bringing the museum outdoors. © FR-EE/Fernando Romero Enterprise

The museum will contain 300,000 sq ft of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, and is expected to house more than 1,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art. The first floor will include gallery space focused on young and emerging artists, the second on temporary exhibitions, and the third on a series of 600 permanent pieces. The apex of the building is reserved for the restaurant.

Miami's street fronts are typically lined with parking garages that form the ground-level base of the buildings, but the design team for the LAAM wanted to reprogram the street level of the museum as an active space for pedestrians. A description released by the architects states that the museum will be "a building that challenges and reinvents its connection with the ground and holds the opportunity to enhance the city through public street life." The goal is to draw the public—visitors, citizens, students, and passersby—into the open, informal architecture and public spaces of the museum from the very foundation of the building.

The museum's street-level plaza is intended to integrate the urban fabric of the nearby college campus as well as Freedom Tower—a U.S. National Historic Landmark that once served as a relief center for Cuban refugees and now holds contemporary art and administrative offices for the college—and Biscayne Boulevard, which extends parallel to the waterfront. Ultimately, the project will be part of a larger development that is intended to include two residential towers containing a combined 111 apartments. The museum and its plaza are designed to become a gathering spot for residents of this new development, according to the architects. The project will be "an important part of the city's fabric," Rebelo noted.

The last 15 years have seen a design and construction boom within the city, many notable architects planning projects that seek to further Miami's reputation for modern design. For example, Miami-based Arquitectonica has designed a viewing tower for Biscayne Bay that will feature a facade that flips upward at street level, its curved canopy supported on cable stays. (Read " Viewing Tower to Redefine Miami Skyline" on Civil Engineering online.) The firm's ArquitectonicaGeo division designed the stately, glowing monoliths that mark the entrances to PortMiami's new tunnels. (Read "Progress for PortMiami" in Civil Engineering , November 2014, pages 50 to 57). And the New York City office of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, LLP, designed a new multilevel, multimodal transportation hub for the city formed of white, V-shaped megatrusses. (Read "Proposed Florida Rail Line Unveils Design for Miami Station" in Civil Engineering , July/August 2014, pages 18-19.)

"Miami's architecture is modern, tropical, continuous, and curvilinear," FR-EE's release states. "LAAM is a response to the context and to this incredible moment in the city where world-class design is being rapidly materialized." The project is expected to take 36 months to construct.


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