Miami’s Villa Vizcaya, an Italian villa on Biscayne Bay built by industrialist and farm machinery magnate James Deering in 1914, has told the story of its creation since opening to the public in 1953. Although not fully completed until 1922, the museum-house recently celebrated its centennial.
A new master plan in the works for Vizcaya encompasses a substantial expansion and the reincorporation of various lost or forgotten elements of the estate, including a model farm, adjoining Italian farm village, and portions of the gardens that have been neglected and closed to the public for decades. For the first time since the heirs of Deering donated it to the public, Vizcaya will be able to tell substantial parts of its story almost lost to history.
In the estate’s formal gardens, a “marine garden,” unseen by the public since being damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, has reopened, and a destroyed water garden, as well as a wide set of stairs that once led to a private beach, have been recently rediscovered. An exhibition of contemporary art on view at Vizcaya through October 2017 is also drawing attention to many more of these spaces, including the estate’s moat (now a dry chasm through a forested section of the grounds), and parts of the original gardens.
But perhaps the largest “missing” element of that story is the farm, which Vizcaya is reclaiming as its current occupant—the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science—moves downtown, and the Italian farm village. Vizcaya’s administrators are hoping to use the village, which still exists quite close to its original form, for a mixture of public programming, collections storage (including open storage), and offices. The master plan then proposes the demolition of the former science museum to restore the farm site as open green space.
The original farm will be partially reconstructed and a reforested area will act as a buffer zone between the estate and the neighboring homes. “One of the most important things is the arrival of visitors and how they move through the village,” said Remko Jansonius, Vizcaya’s deputy director of collections and curatorial affairs.