A petition from preservationists, architects, and residents won’t be enough to save Babylon Apartments, an iconic Brickell building. Miami commissioners voted 4-1 yesterday to overturn the building’s protected architectural landmark status, the Miami Herald reports, clearing the way for Babylon principal owner Francisco “Paco” Martinez Celeiro to demolish the structure and build a new tower on the site.
Babylon is the first commercial building Miami powerhouse firm Arquitectonica ever designed, and the ziggurat-inspired building is the winner of a Progressive Architecture award. But in recent years, the circa-1982 building fell into disrepair.
The Babylon isn't the only building of that era under threat: many buildings from the late 1980s and early 1990s are facing demolition across the country as cities and developers attempt to ignore or erase postmodernism.
The Miami meeting over the Arquitectonica building sounds heated: Commissioner Joe Carollo tied the Babylon itself to the movie Scarface and city’s history of drug-dealing in the 1980s. The Herald’s Andres Viglucci writes:
Carollo alleged the Babylon was built by drug dealers and murderers and should not be saved. “This is the real history of the Babylon,” Carollo said. “This is a place built on the cheap by a guy who was so high he didn’t know if he was coming or going most of the time. I’m amazed that we’re talking about this 35 years later. I’m amazed we have spent to much time glorifying one of the worst buildings in an era many of us would like to forget.”
When the commissioners overturned the 2016 decision to declare the Babylon a protected architectural landmark, they were met by a chorus of boos from preservationists.