Best Beacon - 1999
The NationsBank Tower (née CenTrust Tower) is a beacon in the Miami-Dade night if ever there was one. It also illuminates a dark episode in U.S. banking history. Each evening just after sundown, the 47-story skyscraper reflects a diaphanous color du noir that ranges from orange, aqua, red, light green, and dark green to purple, pink, and white. But from where do those mesmerizing hues emanate? Dozens of powerful floodlights placed atop adjacent buildings and Metromover lines. The lofty polyhedron, designed by international architectural star I.M. Pei, was completed in 1985 and now serves as a geographic point of reference for disoriented tourists, new arrivals, and long-time residents alike. But it also hearkens back to one of Miami's most notorious moral compass problems. The bright idea for developing the lighting scheme was that of banker and CenTrust executive David Paul, whose company built the tower. Unfortunately a federal court found Paul's dealings to be less-than-glowing, and convicted him for using $3.1 million dollars of the bank's funds as his own. Paul began an eleven-year prison sentence in January 1995. The enlightened man who engineered the building's distinctive glow is Douglas Leigh, who also devised the bulbwork for the top of the Empire State Building in New York.