Sunday, July 12, 2009

Around Town: Icon at Brickell/Viceroy

icon viceroy brickellOy vay. Another big penis-like building sticking up from the mouth of the river! Hey, it's all good, but doesn't it look like it's just about to topple over? Miami Circle is that little sliver of green just by the water. Photo shot from Havana Club, 55th floor of the Wachovia Tower.

On July 4, hoity-toity, high-falutin' hotel property located at the Icon Brickell, Viceroy, opened its doors to the local riff-raff. The very exclusive hotel and residence complex let locals get a taste of its pool area by an rsvp list enhanced with tight security. Many guests enjoyed $12 premium cocktails and $6 hot dogs by the infinity pool (not bad, considering South Beach prices) and watched some of downtown Miami's fireworks from the sloped terrace on the 15th floor.

The Icon is a steel and glass monster trio of towers with a designer label of Yoo and Phillipe Starck, built by the Related Group at the mouth of Miami River, just behind the controversial Miami Circle, a 2,000 year-old National Historic Landmark currently managed by the Historical Museum of South Florida.

The entrance to the building, a portico with columns inspired by the statues at Easter Island, is the weirdest thing you'll see in a rash of gimmicky architectural details. I'm sorry, folks, but the columns look like giant shit turds and don't flow with the symmetrical and angular lines of the buildings. Also, the statues aren't exactly part of art in a public park, but seem like someone's personal fetish imposed upon the public view. (By the way, Brickell Park is situated right to the south of Icon and is not integrated into the design.)

Every time I drive by there, I think and laugh: this luxury property is held up by some very serious looking Mr. Hankey's from South Park!

I understand the humor in architecture. But the problem with this kind of funny stuff is that people actually live here and have to look at it everyday. Humor should be in the details and not in-your-face. What's funny today may not be funny tomorrow, and architecture is something you can touch and see and is going to influence your life, not a joke you can simply forget.

Oh, but let me stretch my imagination a little. The statues also look like uncircumcised penises. Seriously. I DARE YOU to drive by this building and not think it's a tribute to something attached to or coming out of the the male groin. I know columns are phallic, but still? This isn't like Gaudi's wonderfully undulating designs in Barcelona. This just doesn't look right. Something is off. Or maybe someone got off. I don't know.

That's why I feel that seeing these big turds (or penises) at one of the most historically important, high-traffic spots in Miami is kind of visually offensive to the average citizen.

And why Easter Island? Hello? Brickell is the freakin' birthplace of Miami. The river is Miami. Why not pay homage to the Tequesta Indians, when one builds a towering residential and hotel complex just inches from Miami's most famous archeological site? You'd think, that in addition to having ancient history right in your face, what with the obelisk statue by the Brickell Bridge, and the statue facing the bay on Brickell Key -- both tributes to native American history here -- that someone might've thought about connecting the building architecturally to local history. But no. Instead, we get a reference to an island in the Pacific.

Ditto with the paravans. The 15th floor of the property boasts a gorgeous courtyard and terrace, with plenty of space to lounge and laze by the infinity pool, which looms vertiginously over the slim waterway separating Icon from the high-rise condos of Brickell Key.

icon viceroy brickellThese paravans with black-and-white portraits of what seem to be regular people (maybe they worked in making this building?) are utterly goofy. How about some historical pictures of the Miami River? That would be an amazing, museum-quality pictorial. You know, just maybe remind people that they're in Miami and not in some place disconnected to the grounds that it stands on? Is this really an island unto itself?

Anyway, the paravans give some privacy -- relative privacy. The glass towers literally have no exterior walls made of anything but transparent material. So if you peek around the paravan, you'll see floor after floor of the toilets in each unit and it makes you wonder who'd want to take a crap with the rest of Miami watching. For this I'm going to pay a million bucks? I don't think so. And besides, woe betide me when a category five hurricane moseys down the mouth of the river.

viceroy brickell icon infinity poolThe east end of the giant courtyard features a terrace defined by three, steep steps tiled in non-slippery material resembling slate. The view from here is incredible. If you suffer from vertigo, this cascading balcony of sorts may not be for you, but I loved it. On July 4, the modest crowd watched limited fireworks from here (some of the view was obstructed by other towering condos on Brickell Key and the northeast side of the river's mouth).

I didn't get a chance to see the rooms, but judging from the website, I'm sure they're lovely. Don't get me wrong -- I don't want to poo-poo this property. If I were a tourist, the place would be interesting, to say the least. And as a local, I'd happily hang out here for any festivity. The pool area is pretty and very relaxing, what with potted plants and all, and another funny touch -- a large faux fireplace -- which is hilarious of course, considering the weather here.

I just wish that our architecture had some kind of organic relevance to the history and geography of its surroundings. Standing 15 stories above the Miami Circle, the only thing I could think was WTF?

And apparently, I'm not the only person who feels this way. Adam Mizrahi of Urban City Arch has written an excellent analysis of how the Icon property "disregards" its surroundings and is far from being pedestrian-friendly: "This is much unlike Europe — where important historical sites are integrated into the landscape. Buildings give way or at least pay homage to the historical and social context of a site." Yes! Let's not forget Brickell Park to the south side of Icon and the fact that the Brickell family was instrumental in founding this area.

Statue photo above courtesy of Urban City Arch on Flickr. Check out his stream for more photos.


Anonymous said...

Whether we ride by on the boat, or car or on our bikes, the Easter Island potato heads look ridiculous and painfully pretentious. I just want to put some eyeglasses and a moustaches on them.

As for the privacy screen on the roof - we thought it was scaffolding first time we passed by.

It's like the obnoxious McMansions that sit zero-lot next door to an old-school Miami-style ranch home. No sense of its surroundings and no respect for its neighbors much less aesthetics.

NicFitKid said...

So the monstrosity is now complete? Looks just as ugly now as when it was under construction.

I still laugh when I remember all the bullshit people were talking 3 yrs ago about how Miami 21 was going to control this kind of mess.

Maria de los Angeles said...

Anonymous - LOL! Potato heads! Now I'm *really* going to have a good laugh. And yes, you're right. Reminds me of McMansions.

NicFitKid - so awesome to see you here. Yeah, Miami 21 is pretty much out the door with this one. Thanks for linking to that material.

Anonymous said...

Miami21 would have helped, but since Miami21 has yet to be approved we will probably get more of these!

ChadC said...

OMG - As i drove by this morning, all i could do was sing the Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo song. Did they let an intern design those columns?

Anonymous said...

at least the columnist likes penises!