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MAM's New Visionaries

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You thought the real estate slowdown would put an end to Miami's "starchitect" fever? Pish posh.

While not as uber-famous as Frank Gehry or Rem Koolhaas, the firm of Herzog and de Meuron, selected Thursday to build the new $200 million Miami Art Museum, is considered one of the most visionary in the business of buildings.

So, during a packed house event yesterday at MAM billed as an "architect selection panel," Terence Riley, the museum's director, bubbled with excitement as he made the announcement, saying H and M "really understand art" and have a "palpable enthusiasm" for the project.

The 125,000-square foot building better be good, some grumbled, taking up space in the 29-acre Bicentennial Park — or "Museum Park" as arties have taken to calling it — precious waterfront, indeed.

Questions: Would there be adequate park space left? Another parking debacle like the performing arts center? Why no big name architect like Gehry? Why no contest? How do you pronounce de Meuron? Is it like "day moron?"

Answers: Lots of green and plenty of parking all around. It's not all about the name, buddy. Contests can be a big pain. Pronounce it? Ask the French guy in the third row.

With projects such as a glowing baloon-like soccer stadium in Munich, a twisting, copper-skinned museum in San Francisco, and a sleek parking garage on Lincoln Road, Herzog and de Meuron should inspire this kind of giddiness. After all, their work earned them the 2001 Pritzker Prize, the architecture world's equivalent of a Pulitzer.

We'll see: conceptual plan within 4-5 months and an actual building around 2010. Factor in the Miami time warp and they should break ground by 2050 or so.-Rob Jordan

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