ARQUITECTONICA

Architecture firm, United States
Arquitectonica began as a Miami firm created in 1976 by a group of young architects
under the leadership of Hervin A.R. Romney and Bernado Fort-Brescia. Andrés Duany
and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk joined the pair a few months later, with Laurinda Spear
arriving the following year. By 1984 Plater-Zyberk and Duany and Romney had left to
establish their own firms. Arquitectonica’s current principles include Sergio Bakas and
Jenifer Briley, who joined the firm in the early 1980s.
Under the leadership of Spear and Fort-Brescia, Arquitectonica expanded to design
buildings in several countries, particularly in Fort-Brescia’s birthplace of Lima, Peru, and
in the Pacific Rim nations of Asia. Although it has some small residential designs to its
credit, Arquitectonica has become known for large-scale projects: apartment towers,
hotels and convention centers, sports facilities, government institutions, shopping malls,
and financial office complexes.
Arquitectonica’s design approach has been described as Latin modern, tropical
modern, new modernism, Postmodern surrealism, Mediterranean, or Caribbean and as
manifesting influences of Russian Constructivism, Deconstructivism, and Art Deco. One
of Laurinda Spears’s early designs that attracted widespread attention was The Spear
House (1978), also known as the Pink House, the firm’s first completed work. Located on
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the Biscayne Bay waterfront in suburban Miami Shores, this building uses glass block,
concrete, and stucco, rendered in five different shades of pink, with angular geometric
forms highlighted in white, to boldly proclaim its allegiance to its tropical setting. The
long, narrow plan stretches along the street with a high wall of opaque glass, assuring
privacy. In contrast, the elevation overlooking the Bay is a busy collage of windows,
balconies, and recesses based on multiples of a square. This motif is repeated, both front
and rear, in a landscaped grid of square patio stones.
The first large-scale designs by Arquitectonica included a quartet of Miami apartment
buildings: the Babylon (1979), followed by the Atlantis Condominiums (1982), the
Palace (1982), and the Imperial (1984). The Atlantis Condominiums, in particular,
captured international interest with their deconstructivist forms. This long and narrow
high-rise, with its single curved end, was designed to be seen from a moving vehicle. The
street elevation was a glazed curtain wall, whereas a large-scale, brilliant royal blue grid
defined the opposite facade. The element that attracted most attention for the firm was the
building’s sky court: a four-story-high opening punched clean through the center of the
building. By audaciously playing with a building’s fundamental sense of enclosure, the
Atlantis building was a success and was followed by numerous commissions within the
Miami region.
Some of Arquitectonica’s entertainment and retail projects, such as the All-Star Sports
and Music Resorts (1994) at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, play with popular imagery and
imagination. Designed for Disney World’s visitors, Arquitectonica used brilliantly
colored and oversized sports paraphernalia, such as basketballs and hoops, baseball bats,
sports pennants, and megaphones, to decorate these resort motels and ancillary facilities.
Eschewing subtlety in favor of the blatantly obvious, such motifs assault both the senses
and the imagination, yet manage to complement and enhance the visitor experience of
Disney’s fantasy world.
The Banque de Luxembourg’s headquarters (1994) respects the character of its owners
and its urban context. Situated on a site at the end of a homogenous range of traditional
European financial institutions, the Banque’s interlocked solid and transparent volumes
allude to both stability and progressiveness. The core section of the Banque is a dark
black parallelogram, enclosed on three sides by a stolid and rational cantilevered facade
of locally available Chassagne stone. The contrasting volume, a dark green, curved glass
tower, slices abruptly into its stone counterpart at the point where the Royal Boulevard
curves around the site. To keep within the footprint of the relatively small and angular
site and to conform with the profile of the existing streetscape, several office and parking
levels were constructed below grade. To the rear of the main building is a formal garden
linking it with a reception area in a house constructed to mimic others along the street.
Although the massive United States Embassy (1996) in Lima was designed according
to the stringent security and safety requirements required for American government
facilities in for eign countries, Arquitectonica’s designers enlivened a conventional
building type with multicolored brick, metal, and tinted glass, laid in complex geometric
patterns. The exposed portion of the entrance facade contains few windows, but behind a
high courtyard wall of Inca-style stone panels welded to steel plates, and at the rear of the
Embassy, an irregular arrangement of windows and squares of gold-plated metal,
interspersed with elongated strips of tinted glass, help to create an intricate geometric
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collage, intended to be reminiscent of a pre-Colombian textile. On this elevation, a
grandly scaled ceremonial entrance of alternating stone and metal frames steps out to the
face of the building.

Arquitectonica’s first major commission in New York, the Westin Times Square Hotel
(2002), is but one component in a massive and, at times, controversial redevelopment
project called E-Walk. Even though the actual project site on 42nd Street is removed
from the Square itself, the lower levels of the hotel and entertainment complex emulate
the big and brassy commercial ambience of Times Square. The 47-story hotel is visually
split in two by a recessed convex chasm containing lighting systems that project a broad
swath of light skyward. One side of the structure is clad in blue glass panels, and the
opposite is covered with gold-tinted glass. Because the tower’s base is supported above
the lower entertainment complex, innovative seismic insulators were designed to enable
the tower to sway with the wind, whereas the lower building remains stationary.

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