Beach House Designed by Richard Meier R.I.P.
When going to Miami this weekend I was excited at the prospect of seeing my first Richard Meier building. Meier was one of the first architects that I was introduced to in my architectural education, and have always had an appreciation for his ability to take a consistent formal language and evolve it with the completion of each new project. The project pictured to the left is a rendering of the Beach House in South Beach Miami, Florida. The developers of the project, which there are many, never miss an opportunity to tell you that the project is designed by Richard Meier. Visiting this building was not the only reason that I went to Miami, thankfully, but was one stop of many in what was a two day architectural tour de force. During those two days I took nearly 600 photos and was exposed to lots and lots of architecture. Unfortunately when assembling the itinerary for my Miami tour de force, I failed to thoroughly research Richard Meier’s Beach House project. Although Richard Meier’s website has the project listed with an expected completion date of 2011, the project has been dead since 2008, the bankruptcy and foreclosure notices were still posted on the window of the sales center, which I hope was at least designed my Richard Meier or a Richard Meier intern. Let’s take a quick photo break.
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The sales center was an architectural tease and I guess now I will be forced to drive up to Atlanta to visit the High Museum if I want to see a Richard Meier designed building.The sales center pictured in the above photo album was formulaic Meier at best, and offered little innovation. The sales center was certainly better than nearly every other building on the strip, but lacked the spirit that Meier is capable of instilling in his buildings. In case you were wondering, yes that is a sign that says ‘Designed by Richard Meier’. How can I convince my clients to allow me to put up a huge sign that says ‘Designed by James Cornetet’?
Meier’s website describes the project as having a ‘sleek porte-cochère’ and having an estimated completion date of 2011. I really wanted to see the sleek porte-cochère, but will have to rely on the renderings by dbox to satisfy my imagination. Another interesting link is a link to the realtor’s website. It is amazing the amount of money that the developer’s spent on the design of the building, and how little was spent on marketing. Perhaps that was one of the downfall’s of this project. My commentary is not necessary for this website to be funny, just visit it, trust me.
I was disappointed at the fact that the site for the Richard Meier building lay empty with the exception of the foundation piles sticking up out of the ground. I stared at the vacant site and laughed. I laughed because South Beach contains what I consider to be an endless sea of lackluster, developer driven Miami Modern styled condos, and amongst these buildings is a site that has a perfectly beautiful building designed for it, by a famous and talented architect, yet the developers cannot manage to get the project built after nearly eight years. Unfortunately this is the fate of many great building designs. Even more unfortunate is the fact that more great designs go unbuilt than built in our profession. Early in my career I used to think that the hardest part about creating great architecture is coming up with a great design. I soon learned that the hardest part about architecture is actually getting the design built. Politics, shady developers, power hungry design review boards, and economics are all enemies of any great design. The designer at some point is transformed from creator to defender, defender of the integrity of the design and its spirit.
Richard Meier’s Beach House is a victim of both the current economic times and the lack of value that society places on architecture. In South Beach there is a line of people whom are willing to pay fifty dollars to take a tour of the Versace Mansion, but only three tourist and myself showed up for a free tour of Cesar Pelli’s Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, Florida, which is a must see building in Miami. The tour was fabulous and lasted nearly two hours. I will feature the Adrienne Arsht Center in an article shortly, complete with analysis, but until then what can we learn from this experience? The people of the United States value notoriety over integrity, style over substance and care little for how the built environment affects their lives. The problem with architecture and its value in the United States is a fundamental problem with American culture. Americans want fast food, they want fast food culture (pop culture) and I believe that they want fast food architecture.
To explain what I mean by fast food, let’s look at the meaning of fast food. Fast food describes food which is cheap, requires little effort to consume, and requires little to no nutritional value. Fast food comes in a wrapper which is disposable and adds to the landfills, it supplies the economy with low paying jobs and its stores are mass produced according to a design formula regardless of context, culture or the vernacular architecture of the region. Fast food architecture is very similar in definition. The American people want buildings that are disposable, cheap, in the style that is popular and do little to allow them to be. Americans are not aware that their environment can be nutritional for their spirit.
For the last 26 months I lived in fast food architecture. Two weeks ago I moved into a well designed highrise building in the city. Now this is not the greatest residential tower ever designed, but it is the result of a development that placed an emphasis on design. My spirit has changed for the better since living in architecture. I did not realize until this move, how bad fast food architecture is for your soul. Architecture is good for the spirit, it has nutritional value, gives back to society and culture, it is eternal, and hopefully one day Americans will understand what the rest of the world has known for quite some time. Architecture is good for the body, mind and spirit.
Rest in peace Richard Meier’s Beach House. Rest in peace knowing that you are not fast food architecture.