Urban Art Museum

1111 Lincoln Road by Herzog & de Meuron: The Beauty of Parking

1111 Lincoln Road by Herzog & de Meuron: The Beauty of Parking

1111 Lincoln Road is part of an addition and upgrade to the existing SunTrust office building, which is a Brutalist concrete relic designed by Adolfo Albaisa that was constructed in the 1960s. 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.  1111 Lincoln Road is more than a parking garage, it is a building that serves as a continuation of the street with parking, retail, restaurants, event space and residential components scattered throughout the structure. The site sits along South Beach’s popular Lincoln Mall, which is a pedestrian friendly avenue for shopping, food, drink, entertainment, and now parking. It is a project that has been published and written about extensively over the past few years, but until now, the focus of renderings, photographs and critical discussion has been on the figure and form of the building rather than its context. This is because the renderings released by Herzog & de Meuron during the project’s development fail to show the parking garage in its true context, and concentrate on the unique form of the structure. As the structure nears completion, stylized photographs by Iwan Baan that depict the building as a piece of sculpture devoid of context, have begun to be published in various media outlets. 1111 Lincoln Road ignores its historic context, yet it relates contextually at other levels, even creating context, it is a building that must be experienced in order to understand why it is so special.

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Architectural Context:

When talking about architecture, architects often speak of the success of an architectural design in terms of context. Unfortunately, many architects forget that there is more to a structure’s context than its relationship to adjacent buildings and the site. Herzog & de Meuron understand context to be social, cultural, and architectural. They are even concerned with how their parking garage relates within the experiential context of the ceremony of driving, parking and emerging as a pedestrian onto Lincoln Mall from the automobile. They recognize these various contexts in the design of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage, a project with so many complex contextual relationships that they only become clear upon visiting the structure and spending enough time looking and experiencing.

When designing structures within a historic context it is best to either match the historic style of the architecture as close as possible, or to design a structure that is of “the spirit of the times” (zeitgeist). Upon visiting the 1111 Lincoln Road development, it became clear that the design of the parking structure is foreign in style and form to the surrounding collection of 800 structures located in South Beach’s Art Deco Historic District. There is nothing formally contextual about the 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure. It stands by itself, as if it is better than its architectural neighbors. It has an attitude, a demeanor that suggest it does not care what you think of it, because it knows it is better than all of the other buildings that you have ever parked in. Herzog & de Meuron avoid the pitfalls that have plagued other architects, by understanding that architecture has to be sensitive to its context, but does not have to look like it. The 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure contrasts with its architectural context in nearly every way imaginable.

The sharp angles of the concrete structure contrast with the streamlined forms of the expensive parked automobiles and neighboring Art Deco structures. The historic forms of South Beach are solid masses that have been carved away, while the parking structure is a delicate exoskeleton, allowing light and air to penetrate deep into its core. While the neighboring Art Deco structures are concerned with surface, Herzog & de Meuron create a structure that is composed of line and edge. The poured in place concrete forms are left raw and exposed to the elements, in contrast to the brightly painted buildings found on every block.

The parking structure of 1111 Lincoln Road is part of a complex of three buildings: Apart from the existing SunTrust office building there is a two-story building designed by Herzog & de Meuron, with a SunTrust Bank branch on the ground floor and four large condos on the second floor. The two-story building has no visual relationship to the parking garage. The solid white box blends in with the existing context, so as not to weaken the image of the parking garage. The modern SunTrust office building is a poured in place concrete structure, but it is painted white in an effort to differentiate old from new. The parking structure ignores these buildings architecturally, and pulls away from them. The floor plates of the parking garage rarely respond to the floor plates of the existing office building. The stairways that connect the two structures are delicate interventions out of necessity, and recede into the shadows of the two structures. The existing SunTrust office building was upgraded to contain additional retail space at the ground level that matches the retail at the base of the parking structure, but a conscious move was made by the architects to use color and a construction joint to differentiate the portion of the concrete canopy that belong to the old and the new.

Herzog & de Meuron take a stand in the design of their parking structure, clearly delineating new from old, denouncing Miami Moderne in favor of an architecture that is responsive to the social, cultural, and experiential context of our time.

Master Curator:

Visionary developer Robert Wennett, who sees himself more as a master curator than a developer, envisioned 1111 Lincoln Road as a structure that would be a destination for art, commerce and culture, he imagined a building that patrons would experience while driving, shopping, living and being entertained. He visited with ten architecture firms from around the world sharing his vision, but it was not until he met with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron that he knew he had found his architect.  After commissioning Herzog & de Meuron to design the structure, the three would work intimately on the project for the next five years. Wennett did not stop with commissioning a world renowned architect to design a building, like any distinguished curator, he realized that an exhibition cannot rely on a single work of art. The building includes signage by Wolf-Olins, an iron rods art installation under the stairs on Level 2 by Monika Sosnowska, as well as featuring retail spaces such as a Taschen bookstore, a Y3/Adidas boutique, and a Nespresso outlet, which all function as miniature galleries for commerce. The details of the building, which are the result of the joint technical efforts of Herzog & de Meuron and local architect of record Charles H Benson & Associates, Architects, PA become works of art that even cause non-architects to pause and admire. Wennett allows his exhibition of design and art to spill out into the plaza in front of 1111 Lincoln Road, the design of which is the result of a collaborative effort by Herzog & de Meuron and Raymond Jungles, a Miami based landscape architect, which features interactive public art by New York artist Dan Graham.

Experiential Context:

On entering the parking garage it becomes clear that everything about the structure is designed to enhance the experience of parking. While driving through the structure, every turn captures a different view of the city; every ramp aligns your vehicle toward a seemingly framed piece of the Florida sky. The shape of the structural columns enhances the views of the city, pulling the eyes outward. The connection of the viewer to the city is reinforced by the architecture. After a few moments you will find yourself forgetting to scan for a parking spot, and instead exploring the city, awaiting new views that are revealed while driving through the structure. The structure responds to the city and its context in a way that differs from other structures in the city. It forces drivers to interact with the city in a way that is unique to 1111 Lincoln Road. It is this exploitation of the ceremonial experience of parking that makes it unlike any other parking structure.

After parking your automobile, the structure will urge you to pause and look out at the city. While waiting on the elevator, the sculptural stair tempts you to explore upper and lower levels; it tempts you to explore the city. Typically parking garages are repetitive vertically, featuring a consistent vertical ten foot rhythm. Herzog & de Meuron have the luxury of exploiting the verticality of the parking structure which creates a different experience at each level. It is a garage with a view and light.

Social & Cultural Context:

Herzog & de Meuron have managed to create an architectural form instilled with the spirit of Miami’s South Beach. The automobile is an undeniable symbol of status and wealth in America. The display of one’s prosperity is the whole reason Miami and the Art Deco style exists. Miami during the 1020’s in its boom could be equated to the Dubai of today. 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 for displaying their wealth in the homes they lived in. Herzog & de Meuron understand this, and create a structure which is as much a monument to the automobile as it is a billboard for displaying wealth. The garage is a stage for the celebutantes of South Beach to display their wealth and gain the attention of tourists that visit the mall. The structure is undeniably South Beach.

All Muscle . . . almost

Jacques Herzog describes the 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure as “All muscle without cloth”.  Spending any amount of time in Miami will validate the accuracy of this statement as a description of South Beach and its culture. Skin is an acceptable form of expression in South Beach, but the problem is that the statement by Jacques Herzog is not an entirely accurate description of the structure. From the stylized photos that have been published in various magazines the structure appears to be ALL muscle, but once at the site, 1111 Lincoln Road is revealed to be a body builder in a tutu. The beauty of the parking garage is its structure, which seems to bulge and flex in all the right places, at times responding to structural forces, and at other times responding to other forces such as emphasizing views of the city from within, and even enhancing the movement of the automobile itself.  The muscles are great, but unfortunately the tutu is not. The metaphorical ‘tutu’ of the structure is the retail space at the ground level. The angled columns of the parking garage abruptly stop at the second level of the building. The ground level lacks the sculptural spirit of the rest of the building. The structure would be more convincingly complete if the angular columns were permitted to continue down to the ground, creating retail spaces that engage the structural forms in a similar manner that the restaurants and penthouse units are treated. Instead, the muscular structure sits atop a glass box, and the iconic angular columns have been substituted for conventional circular columns and a continuous storefront system of glass and metal. A disconnect between the structure above and the retail at the ground level is the result of a compromise between the architecture and visibility requirements demanded by the stores leasing the retail space. The structure can be viewed in its purest state when looking at the building from the north, as the angled concrete columns are allowed to continue down the back of the structure down to the ground.

When inside the parking garage, visitors are tempted to explore the garage vertically; they are inveigled by the seductive qualities of the sculptural stair and the framed views of the city. The garage does very little to engage the public at the street level, one would expect that Herzog & de Meuron would have designed the base of the structure to provoke users to explore the parking garage in the same way that they are encouraged to explore the parking garage while in it, but this is not the case. The pedestrian entrance to the garage and the sculptural stair are recessed in the shadows of the building at the ground level, discouraging entry into the structure. The ground level does not possess the same quality of lightness and transparency as the parking garage that sits atop it. This connection between the base of the structure and the parking garage is the one flaw of 1111 Lincoln Road. If the storefront had been broken, and the muscles of the parking garage been allowed to flex into the plaza, the building, plaza, and overall experience would have been better for it, inching that much closer to completely realizing the designer’s concept.

The above article was featured as the cover story in Bauwelt no 21.10 and in the Summer issue of Florida/Caribbean Architect Magazine. I would like to thank Charles H Benson and Robert Wennett for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions about the project, and for providing their valuable insights into the process involved in producing 1111 Lincoln Road. I would also like to thank Bauwelt for taking a chance on an unknown blogger, and Florida/Caribbean Architect for publishing this article.