More Than Storage: Herzog & de Meuron's 1111 Lincoln Road
Only architects and developers love parking garages—and maybe directors of chase movies. Now party goers and the glitterati, as well as architecture critics from around the world, have fallen in love with one Herzog & de Meuron have designed in Miami Beach, Florida. “I think it is those architects’ best work yet,” proclaimed Cranbrook Director Reed Kroloff on a recent visit. I had read all the praise and seen the sexy Iwan Baan photographs, and had to agree that, both in representation and in reality, it is a beautiful structure. What made the garage even more interesting to me was the way in which the $65 million development of which it is part, 1111 Lincoln Road, shows how we could be using our cities: to make the infrastructure we need anyhow beautiful, but also to mix and match functions, to reuse existing structures, and to create dense pods of inward-turning living in a sprawling environment.
The 300-car garage serves the adjacent 1110,000 square feet of the Adolfo Albaisa-designed, 1968 office structure the same developer, Robert Wennett, converted into a magnet for hot talent agencies as well as more mundane offices. He did that by leaving most of the facade, ripping out as much of the interior as he could to create raw, high-ceilinged space, and then opening up the ground level onto the pedestrian promenade to the South. In addition, he redeveloped the small block to the north into a two-story, stucco-clad structure, also designed by Herzog & de Meuron, that houses a bank on the first floor and four 2,000-square foot, windowless walk-up patio homes on the second floor. Glorifying the car, reusing the existing fabric, improving street life, and creating oases—all are part of one, modestly-scaled development. Just to top it all off, Wennett and his partner live on top of the garage in a penthouse that shares the views over Miami with all that fancy metal parked below.
What makes the parking garage remarkable has already been the subject of many articles. Suffice it to say that creating very, very high ceiling heights, having nothing between the thin slabs of concrete and the outside air except thin railings, and expressing stress forces in canted columns, combined with the usual Piranesian tendency of the ramps, does the trick. There is nothing fancy here except revealing and pumping up the inherent drama inherent to a parking garage. This garage is a monument to its type, rising up out of the confusion of its commercial context to stand for the beauty of the almost nothing of storage.
Similarly, the renovation of the office building is fairly standard, through a few great works of art act as the equivalent to the stores and restaurants strewn around the garage to spice up the environment. Seeing the way buildings are made, especially in contrast with Albaisa’s expressive panels, is always exciting. The patio houses give little away to the public, beyond a fancy grill protecting the staircases from sun and outsiders with a pattern of rotated squares. The units are compact spaces whose light comes only from their interior courtyards. The fact that floor-to-ceiling doors can open the spaces up completely to the usually forgiving Florida climate makes these spaces work as moments of residential rest.
Most people will not notice either 1111 Lincoln Road’s residential or office components, but they will all see and most will marvel at the parking garage, which rises up to 125 feet above one of Miami Beach’s main arteries. It is a neat reversal of the usual hierarchy of infrastructure to finished function, one that plays through the development’s whole detailing. That, to me, is its largest achievement, and one that deserves unmitigated praise.