Vizcaya, Miami's most mindboggling historic house, has an absolutely smashing new skylight in its courtyard that's much lighter, and much airier than its predecessor, due to advances in engineering and a change in philosophy. The old peaky, heavier, dark pyramid which originally enclosed the courtyard 25 years ago, was constructed to protect the house's priceless renaissance art treasures against Floridian heat and humidity, and to evoke a monumentality reminiscent of the Louvre's giant pyramid entrance, which was being built at about the same time.
Since they couldn't remove the skylight completely (which would have been the most historically accurate thing to do) the original black steel monolith was replaced with a sexy aluminum version, painted in "evening white," with a much lower sloped roof that won't be visible from the house's exterior, that won't block the view of the rear towers as you approach the house from the front. The four, much slimmer, support columns, and canopy mullions align with the house's architecture, and a much less obtrusive lighting system has also been installed. The final touch, the replacement of historically inaccurate palms with the kind of flora that the house's builder, James Deering, enjoyed during his lifetime, including Brazilian ironwood, Florida thatch palms and flowering joy perfume trees - no doubt chosen by Vizcaya's famously eclectic designer, Paul Chalfin - is happening now.
During Hurricane Isaac:
The old skylight:
Historic photos of the courtyard:
· The Skylight Project [Vizcaya]
· Vizcaya in 1917 [The Down East Dilettante]
· Lighter, brighter glass canopy to replace aging skylight [Miami Herald]
· Vizcaya coverage [Curbed Miami]
Photos courtesy Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Historic photos courtesy The Down East Dilettante