In a guided tour by car of downtown Miami, Terry Riley, former top architecture curator at the MoMA in New York and one of Miami’s reigning architecture intellectuals, tells Dezeen that Miami’s pedestrian sensibility is returning to the core of the city. The historic design of downtown Miami, with its wide pedestrian arcades to guard against sun and rain are a result of the city originally being laid out in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries with the pedestrian in mind.
When businesses needed access to larger spaces, and construction with lots of glass and air conditioning became the preferred way to keep Miami’s hot climate at bay, Brickell started to boom with its tall glassy towers, windswept pedestrian plazas, and copious parking decks. Miami “lost commonsense construction with air conditioning and underground parking garages,” Riley says, noting that Miami’s present relationship to downtown, signaled in the blossoming bars, boutiques and bicyclists where there had been or continue to be boarded-up storefronts, “is completely new.”
The most spectacular evidence that downtown Miami has come back to its senses could be the enormous overhanging eaves of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the successor of the Miami Art Museum whose move to the bay front was announced four days before Riley resigned his post as director of that institution. Riley tacitly acknowledges that the museum’s prior location in the Philip Johnson-designed cultural complex failed in its mission to “serve as a catalyst” for development downtown. In fact it had been the second time Riley replaced Johnson. His old position at the MoMA was created for Johnson in the 1930s, who occupied it for years.