Designing Miami

Time to take that architectural stroll

You've had your eye on that property for years. Built in 1141 in Segovia, Spain, it's a bit old and far far away. But piece by piece, you can have it shipped to America and re-assembled stone by stone. You'll be the envy of all your neighbors living in their so-called "historic" houses. That's what publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst did in 1925, not with a home but with the Spanish Monastery, now known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery, St. Bernard de Clarivaux. Following a financial downturn for Hearst, a subsequent auction of the stones, and their quarter-of-a-century stay in a warehouse, the pile somehow ended up erected as a tourist attraction in -- of all places -- North Miami Beach. And there it has sat squarely and elegantly since the early 1950s.

A closer look (including a walk and a talk) at the monastery is one of the many facets of the misnamed AIA Miami Architecture Week. The onetime seven-day soiree has morphed into a three-week-long celebration featuring tours of buildings old and new; lectures from prominent practitioners in the field such as Cesar Pelli, architect of this city's long-in-the-works performing arts center; movie screenings; exhibitions; and the inevitable contests dealing with taking photographs and designing things out of sand, canned and boxed food, and stuff that floats.

The festivities kick off with a peek at naval architecture via a stroll through two of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' newest ships, the Navigator of the Seas and the Voyager of the Seas. Thirty lucky folks who reserve early and pass a security clearance get to set foot on the behemoth boats, the former boasting an ice skating rink, a rock climbing wall, and an atrium two football fields long, and both able to accommodate upward of 3000 passengers. Just goes to show that sometimes the best designs are anything but old and earthbound.

 
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