Star Architects Rolling Into Miami
A streamlined new beachfront condo tower on Collins Avenue some say is so good it could set a new high bar for luxe high-rise residential design in South Florida.
The firm of one of the most famous and prolific architects in the world, Sir Norman Foster — the British designer of the pickle-shaped, glass “Gherkin” tower in London and the new Two World Trade Center skyscraper — has produced plans for a tapered, oblong 16-story tower that’s part of ultra-arty Buenos Aires developer Alan Faena’s ambitious $350 million scheme to resuscitate the landmark Saxony Hotel. The tower will be raised on thin columns over a lily pond and extensive gardens designed by Miamian Raymond Jungles.
Just like Roy France’s design for the Saxony in 1948 signaled a turning point in Miami Beach’s architecture, from Art Deco to the more-severe, undecorated International Style, the new Foster + Partners tower could set a new high-water mark for adaptation of historic buildings in the city, Stuart said.
“The Saxony is a progressive statement about what can be done when given a bit of leeway,” Stuart said. Wrapped almost entirely in broad, rounded, overhanging balconies that recall the verandas on cruise ships, the unfussy tower achieves a spare modernity while echoing its Deco — or more precisely, Streamline Moderne — predecessors as well as the deep balconies on the south side of the more-linear, mid-century Saxony. “We were trying to capture a new image for South Beach and reinvent it for future buildings,” said Brandon Haw, Foster’s New York-based senior partner responsible for North America. “We didn’t want to overshadow the Saxony. That was important to how we articulated the building.”
Foster, known for high-tech, green-oriented designs, has designed the planned new Apple headquarters in California, famously put a glass dome on the Reichstag in Berlin, and designed a tower for Hearst publications in Manhattan that explodes like a geometric glass jack-in -the-box from a 1928 classically inspired stone base. At the Swiss Re “gherkin” tower in London, the glass exterior breathes to regulate the building’s core temperature. Just so, at the Saxony addition, Haw said, the terrace-like verandas are shaped with the environment in mind: The building tapers as it rises, more sharply on the northeastern end, with the angle calculated to provide as much shade from the sun as possible as it moves from east to west during the day, he said. The rounded edges on overhangs were tested in a wind tunnel to mitigate high wind velocities. “The esthetics come out of quite-stringent engineering principles,” Haw said.
The tower, which will be reviewed Oct. 12 by the city’s Historic Preservation Board, may also signal a revival of the high-end, haute-design condo market, at least on the Beach, propelled in large part by Latin American buyers. Beside taking over the Saxony renovation, which stalled with the recession, Faena and his partners also purchased two properties across Collins Avenue, one vacant and the other with a historic but empty low-rise hotel. Faena said he is still working on ideas for those lots, but city planners say he envisions renovating the hotel and building a parking garage and retail center next to it.
“Miami is for us the door to get into the world,” said Faena, the fashion-entrepreneur-turned-developer who has redeveloped a chunk of Buenos Aires’ once-derelict and now-booming Puerto Madero, the city’s port district, with an unusual luxury hotel in a historic mill building, a new residential block, the Aleph, designed by Foster’s firm, and a just-opened art center. “Miami is where all Argentineans, Brazilians, Mexicans love to go. In a way it is our house.
“We said, if want to grow, let’s go to Miami. We found this fantastic piece of land and quietly we have been buying. Our dream is to do what we did here in Buenos Aires — create something really special working with the best minds in the world.”
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