By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Can AQUA be emulated in Miami?
In the high-end of the spectrum, Miami has two predominant modes: the very expensive medium-to-low-density residential or these two block-long buildings east of here [on Collins Avenue] that obliterate any possibility to have a reasonably scaled neighborhood. AQUA establishes a new way to create density, which is a real-estate imperative, without resorting to the usual models. Miami Beach needs to reconsider its zoning. Down [at the southern end] of Alton Road, you have these huge apartment buildings and the single-family houses across the street. I believe you can take the two and synthesize them and have a much better neighborhood.
Your building has a hip modern shape with this cool white/blue touch to it. It feels a bit Aegean in the Atlantic. What is the idea behind it?
It's a Miami Beach palette. I'm a modernist who is interested in history. This is a historically referenced modern building. I'm a Miami person. I grew up not even next to the water but almost in the water. [Laughs] I wanted to do a tropical modern building, one that embodies Miami Beach.
How was your work?
It happened the way it should've happened. We were given a site plan and each did what we thought was best. We didn't discuss with each other the design vocabulary, which is why the buildings came out in such a diverse manner.
What do you think about the place?
This project was scary at first. Craig went against the conventional wisdom. The question was: How can you charge millions of dollars for a townhouse that doesn't have a back yard and doesn't sit on the water? The idea is that Craig was not selling townhouses but a community. And the outcome has been very interesting. AQUA doesn't attract speculative buyers but real people who want to live here. We architects build the boxes, and people make the place. My bet is that it will be a great environment to live in, with a fantastic group of people.
Your building's atrium with the skylights reminds me of Rio's modern architecture.
My building is a mix between an iconic tower and trying to blend in. I attempted to work depths and shadows, getting the right sculptural flavor to it. As you see the building from the water, it's like a ship. The idea is to focus the energy of this little peninsula. A swooping top, the sun coming in, and then all the activities associated with that.
How many units?
My building has 40 units. It's a small building that is at once active and complex.
You made a very strong statement at today's press conference. [Architecture critic] Beth Dunlop characterized it as a bit hyperbolic. Could you repeat it?
Yes. I said that AQUA is the most important plan since Corbusier's Ville Radieuse [a proposed city the famed architect designed in the early Thirties].
Wow! And how is that?
In the end Modernism never came up with a feasible plan that created spaces for people. Ville Radieuse was a series of towers in the park. Their rigid separation of functions made diversity impossible, not to mention the scale and the vast empty spaces. Let's face it, Corbusier hated the street, but it became the model for housing projects. Unwillingly the replication of that model had a devastating effect on cities around the world. There hasn't been a plan since the mid-Twenties that works together bringing together towers and low-rise buildings in one place -- or there's never been one in a manner that is convincing for the pedestrians.
Your townhouse design is pretty handsome. What were you trying to achieve?
Thanks. I was striving for a modern space with an open plan and I think I succeeded. My house had the 36-foot lot. My idea was to go with the grand gesture and try to get the spaces correct: the open porch, an outdoor living room. It occurred to me to make a big façade. When you look at the combination ... you can set up those double doors and you can use it as a living room and you get this nice tropical room. It's romantic living in the tropics. The idea is: Are you outside or inside? Then you have another roof terrace.
A Villa Savoy.
Yes, in a way my building is a Corbusiean piece, but ultimately this whole thing is about making your environment more livable, more in context with human beings. We have to learn to live better.
Do you think Miami's big interests can learn?
Yes, they can, although most of the time they seem not to. [Laughs] Take Fisher Island, for instance. They're building three or four more of the buildings they already have there. It's a developer-driven thing, a missed opportunity. The entrance into the city of Miami -- like in Venice when you arrive from the Adriatic.
Gisue and Mojgan Hariri
Your house has a complex, cubist volume. Can you tell me a bit about it?
Gisue Hariri: The idea of a townhouse has been around for a long time. Because of the width of a townhouse, there's not a lot you can do. The challenge here opened a possibility because we're not going the traditional way. Our idea was to break the volume so that it didn't look like a big mass. We wanted to bring in the surroundings, the air and the waves.