It seems prescient that these two P/A Award–winning projects by Arquitectonica were named after buried or submerged places—Babylon and Atlantis—since both buildings in Miami’s Brickell Avenue area have almost become lost amid the gargantuan structures that now surround them. The Babylon, which won a citation in 1978, received praise from juror Charles Moore for the surrealistic quality of its bright-red façade and its white shiplike balconies, which stepped back in deference to an adjacent house that remained from the era when Biscayne Bay’s shoreline contained mostly large villas. Now, wedged among giant residential towers, the Babylon looks like a forlorn ship, ready to sail away from the collapse of Miami’s condo market.
Down Brickell Avenue, its larger cousin, the Atlantis, a citation winner in 1980, has suffered a similar fate. Made famous by its weekly appearance in the opening credits of the television show Miami Vice, the 20-story reflective-glass-walled Atlantis has also found itself overshadowed by much larger condo towers to its south. That has greatly diminished the surreal effect of the building, with its iconic red gable, yellow balconies, blue screen wall, and square “skycourt” punched through the building, featuring a yellow curvy wall, red spiral stair, and potted palm tree. Now, you don’t see the sky through the skycourt, just more balconies.
The bloated development along Biscayne Bay gives new meaning to the term “Miami vice,” making you yearn for a time when these sensual Arquitectonica buildings evoked a city still in command of its senses.