In a guided tour by car of downtown Miami, Terry Riley, former top architecture curator at the MoMA in New York and one of Miami's reigning architecture intellectuals, tells Dezeen that Miami's pedestrian sensibility is returning to the core of the city. The historic design of downtown Miami, with its wide pedestrian arcades to guard against sun and rain are a result of the city originally being laid out in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries with the pedestrian in mind.
When businesses needed access to larger spaces, and construction with lots of glass and air conditioning became the preferred way to keep Miami's hot climate at bay, Brickell started to boom with its tall glassy towers, windswept pedestrian plazas, and copious parking decks. Miami "lost commonsense construction with air conditioning and underground parking garages," Riley says, noting that Miami's present relationship to downtown, signaled in the blossoming bars, boutiques and bicyclists where there had been or continue to be boarded-up storefronts, "is completely new."
The most spectacular evidence that downtown Miami has come back to its senses could be the enormous overhanging eaves of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the successor of the Miami Art Museum whose move to the bay front was announced four days before Riley resigned his post as director of that institution. Riley tacitly acknowledges that the museum's prior location in the Philip Johnson-designed cultural complex failed in its mission to "serve as a catalyst" for development downtown. In fact it had been the second time Riley replaced Johnson. His old position at the MoMA was created for Johnson in the 1930s, who occupied it for years.
The Miami Center for Architecture and Design's tenancy of the old U.S. Post Office & Courthouse building, built in 1917 and empty for the last dozen years or so, is another strong sign that Miami is returning to its senses, he says. Miami is a wonderful place to be outside for most of the year, yet a lot of more recent architecture has encouraged spending one's entire life in air-conditioned spaces. Now, intelligence is returning to the Magic City. "In a certain sense, this represents Miamians coming back to why they came to Miami in the first place," Riley says. It may also be why he decamped from New York to Miami himself. Watch the full tour here.
· Terence Riley: Miami Was 'Laid Out As A Pedestrian City' [Dezeen]
· Previous Old U.S. Post Office coverage [Curbed Miami]