December 3, 2001
Notes from Clifford Pearson
Photograph © Robin Hill
The Casablanca Hotel, Miami, from Miami Modern
ArchitectureA Photography Exhibition.
Venice has one. Buenos Aires has one. São Paulo has
one. But until this year, no place in the United States had
an architecture biennial. Somehow the notion of an international
event celebrating architecture (usually alternating years
with an art confab) was foreign to us. Maybe it was the international
aspect of these gatherings that struck the wrong chord in
this country. The U.S. is so big some people think we dont
need to look beyond our borders. Or perhaps no one thought
enough Americans would be interested in a big show on architecture.
Well, Miami just changed all that. Bienal Miami + Miami Beach
2001 kicked off on October 6 with a series of events that
included an exhibition of work from around the world and talks
by Rodolfo Machado, Zaha Hadid, and Enrique Norten. The masterminds
behind the Bienal are a pair of professors from Florida International
University (FIU), Jaime Canavés and Carlos Casuscelli,
who twisted arms, pushed open doors, and generated enough
creative energy to make it all happen. Sponsors for the event
included the Miami Chapter of the AIA, the Pan American Federation
of Architects Associations, the Miami Design Preservation
League, the Wolfsonian Institute, and FIU.
Instead of trying to stand by itself, the Bienal hooked up
with Miamis Design + Architecture, a month-long celebration
of design that was heading into its third year of operation.
Backed by people from the Arango Design Foundation, Florida
Atlantic University, and the Miami Beach Community Development
Corporation, D+A takes aim at a cross-section of south Florida
residents and tourists. This year it delivered a program that
included film presentations, a photography exhibition entitled
Miami Modern Architecture (which is headed for
the Municipal Arts Society in New York in March), lectures,
book signings, events for children, even a sandcastle-building
competition. The goal is to show how design influences peoples
daily lives, from the shape of a chair to the future of urban
The U.S. was lacking a big design statement, a formal
rendezvous of architects from around the world, says
Casuscelli, explaining why he and Canavés developed
the Bienal. We wanted to get a lot of architects together
to discuss what theyre doing and bring it to the general
public, adds Casuscelli. Although a biennial event should
happen only every other year, Casuscelli and Canavés
are hoping to put together something next year to capitalize
on the momentum they created this year and call attention
to the start of Enrique Nortens tenure as dean of the
school of architecture at FIU next fall.
In addition to an exhibition of 70 projects from dozens of
countries, the Bienal included a student competition to design
a lifeguards station and a competition to design scattered-site
housing in Miamis Little Haiti neighborhood.
As the unofficial capital of Latin America and one of the
most international of U.S. cities, Miami seems like the perfect
place for the countrys first architecture biennial.
A few nights at one of Miami Beachs restored Art Deco
hotels, a good meal at one of Little Havanas Cuban restaurants,
a stroll down Ocean Drive, and a few hours of frenzied dancing
at one of South Beachs hot clubs set just the right
mood for appreciating architecture. Context supports content.
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