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Miami Attracts Starchitects

Frank Gehry, Herzog and de Meuron, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier, and Enrique Norton are all working on projects in Miami.

"Just when it seemed that the traditional Miami aesthetic had made a national comeback -- with Art Deco, Art Moderne and space-age-style motifs re-entering the vocabulary of so many developers -- a new chapter has opened for this city's architecture.

The Big Architects are in town.

On Lincoln Road alone in Miami Beach, Enrique Norten, Frank Gehry and the team of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are all at work on major projects. From Mr. Norten there is a low-slung condominium and retail building, and Mr. Herzog and Mr. de Meuron are designing a distinctive parking garage integrated with retail, office and residential space. Frank Gehry is creating a concert hall and high-tech distance-learning center for the New World Symphony. And Mr. Norten has at least two other projects in Miami, including the so-called Flatiron building.

Downtown, Cesar Pelli's much-awaited Miami Performing Arts Center is scheduled to open late this year, featuring a soaring lobby, a 2,400-seat opera house, a 2,200-seat concert hall and a 200-seat theater linked by a pedestrian bridge over Biscayne Boulevard. In a nod to the past, Mr. Pelli has preserved what is left of the old Sears building, an Art Deco tower with fluted piers, which punctuates his design."

Full Story: Miami Is All About Its Celebrity Architects

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Revealing Statements About Starchitecture

This article fawns over the "celebrity architects," but it makes two statements that inadvertently reveal what this sort of starchitecture is all about:

"Major developers across the country have long since realized, of course, that celebrity architecture sells. But its sudden rise here seems linked to a new level of design consciousness, an outgrowth of the now-entrenched fashion industry in South Beach..."

"Jim DeFede, a local television news commentator, suggested that Miami now relished the attention it could draw by setting its architectural sights high. 'Clearly, Miami still has an inferiority complex,' he said. 'Miami so desperately wants to be viewed as a great city, as a capital of the Americas.'"

So, starchitecture is like the fashion industry, trying to come up with something new and flashy for this season to attract attention and sell itself. And cities are attracted to this if they have "inferiority complexes" that they are trying to overcome by keeping up with the latest fashions.

It is easy to throw away last season's dresses when they go out of fashion. It is not as easy to throw away last season's buildings. When this wave of starchitecture is replaced by some new fad, Miami will be left with some very conspicuously out-of-date buildings, which will help to feed its inferiority complex.

Charles Siegel

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