May 25, 2020
Renzo Piano’s First Miami Project is a Luxe Residential Tower by the Beach
A new otherworldly condo building by the Italian architect rises on a lot once occupied by a Howard Johnson hotel.
When you meet with Renzo Piano, the Pritzker Prize–winning architect of the Centre Pompidou, The New York Times Building, and the Whitney Museum, you tend to remember the circumstances. And so it was for David Martin, president of the Miami-based development firm Terra, while he was auditioning architects for a proposed residential tower in Miami Beach’s North Beach neighborhood. “It was the summer of 2016 and my wife and I had just been to Basel in Switzerland, then to Dubai and Turkey,” he recalls. But the trip’s coda on the Italian Riviera proved to be the most fruitful stop. “Renzo’s office is spectacular. It sits on a cliff in Genoa, and the elevator was on a diagonal slope. He had lunch ready for us. He’s really smart, special—and humble. He told us he’s a big sailor and even makes sandcastles.” The starchitect was also very specific about what was appropriate for the site. “He said, ‘How often do you get a property with access to a 35-acre park on the ocean?’ ”
That Ligurian lunch was the first step in transforming an unprepossessing lot with an old concrete Howard Johnson hotel into a sparkling new 68-unit residential building with an oblong footprint and a design so delicate and buoyant it looks like a mirage. “The language we wanted to use for Eighty Seven Park is the language of lightness, a sense of a lack of gravity,” Piano says. Under the direction of Terra, in partnership with Bizzi & Partners Development, the building broke ground in September 2017 and was completed in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Martin is determined to pique the curiosity of those buzzing past on Collins Avenue: “People are going to drive by and say, ‘How did they let David build in the park?’ ” Of course “they” didn’t—the tower only appears to rise from beneath the tropical tree line of North Shore Open Space Park, while it in fact merely borders the park. That’s the point. “Renzo wanted this building to float above the green canopy,” Martin says, and he also wanted people who didn’t live in the building to be able to enjoy its architecture. “A lot of Miami Beach buildings chop off access for the public. But we added two beach walks on the north and south sides of the property, to create, in Renzo’s words, a more democratic feeling.”
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The Dutch urban planning and landscape firm West 8 was tapped to execute the illusion of seamlessness between the public and private environments; it was West 8 that revitalized the North Shore park and designed the two-acre residents-only outdoor space. “We leveraged the site’s best attributes—its adjacency to the park and ocean, convenient access to the city, and unique coastal ecology—and brought them together harmoniously to create an urban Eden unlike any other in South Florida,” explains Daniel Vasini, creative director of West 8’s New York office. Of course, democracy goes only so far: You’ve clearly crossed over from public to private once you’ve discovered Eighty Seven Park’s outdoor furniture from Luminaire, Paola Lenti, and RODA—and the residents’ dedicated alfresco Fugo bar. For the tropical modern interiors, Martin went with RDAI in Paris, on Piano’s recommendation. “Their aesthetic and neutral palette are right on the money for Miami Beach,” the developer says.
Piano’s first project in Florida draws from the locale with a greenhouse-like lobby supported by structural glass mullions. Also seeming to defy the laws of physics are the residences’ unusually deep terraces, which serve as the tower’s signature element. “How do you build 25-foot cantilevers with no columns?” Martin asks, then answers his own question: “Renzo is one of the Pritzker Prize winners with the greatest number of built structures, so his team has an immense amount of construction experience. He commands respect among the engineering team, consultants, contractor, and my project management team. People want to satisfy his vision.”
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