Miami's High-Rise Orthodoxy Hides a Better Way

Alastair Gordon lambasts Miami's high-end architectural extremes. A horizontal, nature-inspired urbanism might better address contradictions between breezy luxury and inland poverty.

1 minute read

February 23, 2015, 9:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Hello Miami!

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In part a criticism of faddish architecture through the lens of Miami, Gordon's article envisions a more equitable and sustainable model for the Florida city. In spite of widespread hype and celebrity status for "starchitects," the luxury high-rise model remains "surprisingly formulaic."

Miami’s abodes for the ultra-rich exhibit a designed disconnect with the rest of the city. As Gordon puts it, "Early skyscrapers in New York and Chicago drew energy up from the earth with brooding setbacks, finials, gargoyles and Faustian shadows. In contrast, the recent high-rises of Miami appear to dangle downwards, hardly touching the earth at all."

Gordon argues that despite isolated overtures toward social urbanism, the predominant architectural mode promotes isolation and escape. He points to a different way, exemplified by the Perez Art Museum and Stiltsville: "low-lying structures that feed and filter the urban environment while adapting to climatic uncertainties, flood or drought."

Inspired by Florida's water-friendly mangroves and banyans, this kind of horizontal urban design may help the city address its significant climate risks and social inequality.

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