June 19, 2010

Party In The City Where The Heat Is On

Ignore your surroundings. Ignore the economy! With technology and LEED Points, we will prevail!!  It's time for a new decade!!! THE FUTURE IS HERE!!!!

Who thought getting 15,000 architects together in one of the country's hottest cities (during the summer) would be a good idea? The AIA, of course! Nevertheless, there we were sitting in a larger-than-usual air conditioned box listening to messages about the future broadcast to us via teleprompter-informed surrogates. "Design for the Next Decade," as it was called, came complete with branding images showing a serene view of Earth from outer space - creatively dodging the political/social/environmental turmoil of today.  The events were ironically held within a rather large flamboyantly pastel and neon decorated PoMo box. After spending four days there, I got the feeling no one else saw the humor in the situation.  Toss in the awarding of the AIA Gold Medal to Peter Bohlin - a life-long modernist (the humanist type, not the angry type) - and you have some theoretically confusing environments to take in. I predict this will all subconsciously rub off on the emerging architects who attended the conference which will end up designing in an awkward hybrid 1980's style well into the 21st century out of confusion. This is probably why I am not a trend forecaster.

The convention itself consisted of all the predictable themes: globalization, BIM, and of course the dreaded "s" word, sustainability.  Such jaded themes were nearly unbearable to take in, but the aggressive use of movie theater stylized carpeting throughout the convention center, paired with what could only be described as a spectacle of building products in the expo's main floor kept me on my toes. After all, this was the super bowl of the building trades industry! Partaking in "the scene," I felt what Wall Street traders must go through, being constantly bombarded by hungry salesmen showing off everything from virtual reality headsets, to oversized double hung windows, to fancy paver stones.  The experience was somehow both my worst nightmare and the most interesting architectural spectacle I have ever witnessed.

Biggest disappointment: the lack of discussion of the convention's dicey history in Miami vis-à-vis Morris Lapidus vs. the Modernists at the Americana in 1963. I did, however, stumble across Art Center on Lincoln Road which did a good job of showcasing both Lapidus' work and personality. Aside from drawings and photographs, a presentation of his bow ties were prominently displayed around a minimally black monolithic bow tie shaped table.  This managed to satisfy most of my MiMo cravings.  Additionally, I managed to drive by the Bacardi Building by Enrique Gutierrez, one of my absolute favorites. It's international corporate style overlaid with radical tropical-influenced aesthetics must have caused quite a commotion fifty years ago:

The Bacardi Building makes me want to use any Meis building I can get my hands on as a canvas for experimental decorative art.  I can't help but wonder if the convention center's aggressive use of movie theater carpeting was a symbolic nod to the Lapidus & co.'s cinematic take on Miami:

No overview of Miami would be complete without mentioning 1111 lincoln which was at the time still under construction. This parking garage/"mixed-use" space actually scares unsuspecting tourists. It looks as though the garage has swallowed a portion of the nearby 1960's era SunTrust Bank building. No mercy.

When seen in context with Lapidus' Lincoln Road the car park begins to make a bit more sense. From the Wall Street Journal: 
"'I envisioned a park-like mall with pools and fountains and exotic concrete shelters,' wrote Lapidus, whose plan included plantings and splashing waterworks interspersed with a series of architectural follies made from concrete white-painted stucco, each with its own flamboyant shape--flaring shells, fin-like canopies, undulating vaults, simple slab roofs hovering on narrow steel pylons--Lapidus's own vocabulary of forms, minimal but whimsical."

The most powerful moment of the entire convention occurred in Peter Bohlin's last comments which seemed to undermine the futurist theme of the convention. Upon being asked what advice he could give to young architects, Bohlin simply reached into his pocket, pulled out a pencil and held it up saying don't forget about this. The gesture generated a great deal of applause more so than at any other point during the convention, suggesting perhaps the popularity and value of low-tech in an increasingly high-tech era.

1 comment:

Markasaurus said...

Thanks for updating me on what missed (?) in Miami this year. I appreciate Bohlin's comment on remembering to use a pencil. When I started drawing on paper with a pencil at work a few weeks ago you would have thought I pulled out a venomous snake or a hand grenade. People were staring, and literally stopping in their tracks. I guess what made it even stranger to them is that I'm the BIM coordinator on the project, yet I still have use for HAND DRAWING. Shocking, I know.