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Praise for one of Miami Modern's unsung heroes

Call architect Norman Giller the man who made MIMo. Of course in 1949 when he was designing buildings such as the first ever two-story motel, Sunny Isles' Ocean Palm, the last thing on his mind was what style he was utilizing. "Styles are something that historians give to architecture," says Giller. "Architecture actually represents the people of that particular time and the technology of that time." The time that MIMo, or Miami Modern architecture, refers to spans from 1945 to 1973. Along with the appreciation of all things modern from the midcentury, the style is hotter than ever, and 83-year-old Giller is recognized as one of its major proponents. As Design + Architecture 2001's final event, he'll be feted during a lunch Monday at, of all places, the Eden Roc, designed in 1956 by another leading light Morris Lapidus.

Unlike the praise heaped on Lapidus near the end of his life, the seemingly late recognition for Giller's achievements is not overdue at all. Established for 50 years, his firm received accolades for its influential innovations such as introducing air conditioning in residential structures, pioneering the use of PVC pipe, and inventing the catwalk balcony/hallway for motel patrons. They designed more than 11,000 buildings in the United States and South America. Some in South Florida: The Thunderbird, Suez, and Driftwood motels in Sunny Isles, Hollywood's Diplomat Hotel, and the Carillon in Miami Beach.

Detail from Norman Giller's Carillon Hotel (1957)
Thomas Delbeck
Detail from Norman Giller's Carillon Hotel (1957)

One of the benefits of living to a ripe age may be seeing your work admired for a second time, but witnessing your creations torn down and replaced thanks to skyrocketing land values is a sight Giller would rather not behold. "Times have changed, people's way of living has changed, and architecture reflects that." he notes philosophically. "Every building should not be saved just because it's old, but some should be preserved because they're good buildings, a good design, so that our children and grandchildren can see what the history of our generation was."

 
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