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1111 Lincoln Road by Herzog & de Meuron: Context, What Context?

During a recent trip to Miami, I made a quick visit to 1111 Lincoln Road, a development in South Beach’s Lincoln Mall, which I have been following for some time now. At first glance the renderings display a project that is at the very least, an exciting structural display that mimics the symbols of wealth displayed by the celebutantes of South Beach. Upon visiting South Beach and the 1111 Lincoln Road development, it became clear that the design and development are clearly foreign to the surrounding collection of 800 Art Deco structures located in South Beach’s Art Deco Historic District. This is a complicated scenario, and there can be arguments crafted by those for and against the development designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

Books referenced for this publication that document the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron Architekten:

Unless you have been living in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan for the past ten years, it is likely that you are familiar with the architecture of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Herzog & de Meuron are the design principals and creative forces behind the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron Architekten. The architecture of Herzog and de Meuron has drastically evolved since the completion of the Tate Modern renovation in 2000, which proved to be a defining work in their careers and lead to the duo’s international fame. Herzog & de Meuron’s work has evolved in parallel with their fame. Their sensitivity to architectural context has evolved to respond not just to the built environment of a building’s site, but to social, cultural and experiential contexts as well. Their architectural forms are the result of process and function, and not influenced by style or a heavy handed design signature.

In the beginning their architecture possessed a high degree of sensitivity to context, and their design intervention was barely perceptible from project to project. The new merged with the old seamlessly.  Current Herzog & de Meuron projects respond to their context in a different manner. The design for 1111 Lincoln Road clearly delineates old from new, however the project favors other contextual relationships instead. 1111 Lincoln Road can only exist in South Beach, although its form is foreign in appearance, it is derived from social, cultural and functional contexts, not architectural.

The evolution of Herzog & de Meuron’s work is what makes following their career exciting. It is rare for an architect to discover a process that leads to fame and success, but it is even rarer for a firm to reinvent their approach after finding fame, and the public loving them more for it.

Photo Gallery:

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Tate Modern:

Prior to the completion of the Tate Modern by Herzog & de Meuron in 2000, a competition was held in order to find a solution for renovating the old power station. Herzog & de Meuron’s proposal was selected for its sensitivity and preservation of the existing structure. The details and forms generated all seem to respond to the existing spaces, and make the building and experience better with their addition. Now I am not going to delve deep into an analysis of the Tate Modern, but only want to note that the project represents an example of a similar project to 1111 Lincoln Road, but was completed earlier in Herzog & de Meuron’s career. Like the Tate Modern, 1111 Lincoln Road is an addition/adaptive reuse project, the context is historic, and the site is highly public, yet the architects provide a solution for 1111 Lincoln Road and Tate Modern using two completely different approaches.

Context: Do, or do not. There is no blending.

I have always been a firm believer that if you are designing a new building on a campus or in a historic district that there are only two ways of approaching such a problem. You either need to design a building in the historic style of the context, or you need to design a structure that clearly indicates that it is of a different style or time period. I hate blending, and I hate architects that cannot commit. It seems that many architects try to blend existing styles with new styles when adding onto existing structures, and never commit to taking a do or do not approach. Without a do or do not approach, the new and old architectures are compromised, and the final product becomes a muddled mess. An anti-blending approach does not mean that the new structure should not complement the existing. This also does not mean that the new structure should not respond to existing orders or structures, on or adjacent to the site. Whig Hall by Charles Gwathmey is a excellent example of an addition to an existing historic structure, some might call this blending, but I strongly disagree. When analyzing the form of Whig Hall, it becomes quite clear which parts of the structure are new and pre-existing. The structure as it stands today is more exciting and actually better, because of Gwathmey’s design for the addition. Whig Hall is an example of an addition in a different style than the original structure. The new responds to the existing orders and constraints of the preexisting structure, and is again similar to the problem solved by Herzog & de Meuron in their design of the Tate Modern. (See the slide show above for reference photo of Whig Hall and Tate Modern).

Herzog & de Meuron are taking the do not approach to a completely different level in their design for 1111 Lincoln Road. Rather than create a design that denounces the existing historic context, yet still in response to the existing architectural orders, they completely denounce everything that has to do with the existing historic context and order. There can be no confusion between new and old when visiting 1111 Lincoln Road.

1111 Lincoln Road:

1111 Lincoln Road is part of an addition and upgrade to the existing SunTrust office building, which is a Brutalist concrete relic from Miami’s modern past. At first glance, 1111 Lincoln Road looks like a new museum or a swanky new condo building just beginning construction, but in reality the structure is nearly complete. The site sits along South Beach’s popular Lincoln Mall, which is a pedestrian friendly avenue for shopping, food, drink, entertainment, and now parking.

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office space

Herzog & de Meuron have managed to create an architectural form which is instilled with the spirit of Miami’s South Beach with their design for 1111 Lincoln Road. The automobile is an undeniable symbol of status and wealth in America. The display of status and wealth is the whole reason Miami and the Art Deco style exists. Miami in its boom could be equated to the Dubai of the 1920’s. What car do you drive? How much money do you make? What designer labels are on your clothes? This is the culture of Miami and these are the things that matter. The Art Deco style in Miami was the result of the wealthy searching for a means to displaying their wealth in the homes that they lived in. Herzog & de Meuron understand this, and create both a monument to the automobile and a billboard for wealth. The garage is a stage for the celebutantes of South Beach to display their wealth and gain the attention of tourist that visit the mall. The structure is undeniably South Beach.

Outside of their response to context, Herzog & de Meuron did do a few things that went against standard norms for parking structures. An interesting detail is the treatment of the striping in the garage. It appears in the renderings that the concrete will be painted white, while the striping is black. Another interesting formal gesture is the vertical rhythm of the parking garage. Typically, parking garages are repetitive vertically, featuring a consistent vertical ten foot rhythm. Herzog & de Meuron were granted the luxury of exploiting the verticality of the parking structure and create a garage unlike any other.

If I had to sum up the design of the structure with two words it would be contrast and juxtaposition. The structure contrasts with nearly every element on the site, and the angular forms and geometries serve as a nice juxtaposition against the curves of the automobiles and the Art Deco buildings. 1111 Lincoln Road is an example of a mundane building typology, reexamined with a fresh set of eyes. For more information about this project, check out the 1111 Lincoln Road Blog.

On a side note I read a review on Eikonographia, and the author questioned why Herzog & de Meuron did not place the garage below ground.  I found the comment to be funny because unlike other cities found around the world, Miami is built on a swamp, which means that the water table is very high and that you will find few basements or underground parking structures in Miami or Florida for that matter.