Tales From the Miami River
Beth Dunlop -- Interior Design, 5/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
This is the story of two Miami institutions that came of age at the same time and made some of their greatest contributions by working in tandem. Founded 30 years ago as a postmodern experiment by husband-wife team Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear, Arquitectonica International Corporation has designed 15 high-rise condominiums for the Related Group of Florida, a $10 billion real-estate developer that has built 55,000 residential units. For most of its 28-year history, the company was located in suburban Coral Gables.
Moving downtown, Related took over two levels of its own condominium 1 Miami's four-story commercial annex. The Arquitectonica-designed complex stands at the mouth of the Miami River, just where it meets Biscayne Bay. On two sides, the property is wrapped by a waterfront public "art walk," which Related's founder, chairman, and CEO, Jorge M. Pérez, helped city planners create.
Known for incorporating art into his buildings' public spaces, Pérez is a passionate collector who employs a full-time corporate curator to manage his hundreds of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper. They're displayed, on a rotating basis, at the new headquarters, designed by the three-year-old division Arquitectonica Interiors. Many companies view art as an afterthought to perk up a blah office. But in this case, project manager Paul Terry Edwards says, "We went to the drawing board and decided to make the whole space about art, not the other way around."
Architectural elements in the striking reception area are almost works of art in their own right. Behind an angular desk of Calacatta gold marble, the Related logo stands out, in brushed stainless steel, against a wall of "woven" wengé. The angular coved ceiling, lit by indirect color-corrected fluorescents, is an Arquitectonica trademark.
Beyond reception, on the executive floor, a long corridor does elegant double duty as a gallery, showing off large-scale works from both the corporate collection and Pérez's own. The ever changing selection is as likely to feature famous artists (Joan Miró, Chuck Close) as local ones, approximately 50 pieces at any given time.
Wall-washers provide multiple illumination levels in the corridor, from daylight-bright to twilight-dim. The fixtures have UV filters to protect the art. So do all the windows, especially in Pérez's glass-walled corner office facing the water.
Throughout the 22,700-square-foot space, Arquitectonica relied on bold textures and an earth-driven palette of white, tan, chocolate brown, and gray. "It's a palette that provides a refined backdrop for the art collection," Edwards says. The interior also incorporates several elements by Spear, including glass door panels etched with a bamboo pattern.
Spear and Fort-Brescia's building is no ordinary shape. The architecture relies on the angles and folding planes typical of Arquitectonica's inventive outlook—and so do the interiors. No squares or rectangles here. As Edwards says, "It just made sense to let the interiors flow with the facade to create a dynamic interplay."
Or, more accurately, a playful dynamic: Harry Bertoia chairs, upholstered in sizzling shades of orange and fuchsia; a rug striped in pink, pumpkin, brown, and gold; random squares of color in the carpet tiles. And random means exactly that. After days spent trying to generate a computer model for the placement of the accent colors, Edwards simply went to the site and splashed the tiles around with a studied randomness worthy of Jackson Pollock.