This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.
Arquitectonica was founded in 1977 as a loose collective of designers working out of a Miami strip mall. The original five members were Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Laurinda Spear, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Hervin Romney. Though Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Romney eventually went off in different directions Fort-Brescia and Spear remained as Arquitectonica and created the most important Miami architecture firm in the world. They gained early fame for their Brickell Avenue high-rise, the Atlantis Condominium. The Atlantis appeared over the credits of the television show Miami Vice in the 1980s and helped create the image of glamorous style now associated with the city.
The firm is the first one in South Florida to have an ambition larger than the city itself and has built all over the country and overseas. It now has over 850 employees working in eight other cities from Paris to Shanghai and is currently building in 58 countries around the world.
A survey of the firm’s projects currently on the boards reveals an astonishing number of large skyscraper and complexes that display its ability to create stylish exterior facades and interior public spaces.
Arquitectonica has built dozens of important buildings in Miami, but one that highlights its current design philosophy is the massive Brickell City Centre just blocks away from its early residential buildings. The Centre is a massive 4.9-million-square-foot development on 9.1 acres, including an underground car park, two mid-rise office buildings, two residential towers, a hotel with residences, and 500,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space. The centerpiece of the project is a large open-air shopping mall covered with a sculptural glass canopy called the Climate Ribbon (designed in collaboration with Hugh Dutton Associés, Cardiff University, and Carnegie Mellon University) that snakes through the projects and acts a brise-soleil and flange for catching prevailing winds. Fort-Brescia was tasked with developing the uniform look of the Centre in his signature glass-and-steel manner.
Brickell City Centre sits adjacent to the city’s geographic heart and connects to key transport nodes by incorporating the Metromover light-rail station and offering easy access to all major highways. Arquitectonica is known for developing stylish interiors and even product design (lead by Spear) but in Brickell Centre they are virtually designing a new city within a city that will likely become the new heart of the region.