Slab, corridorSlab, gallery-accessSlab, point-access
Palace
Arquitectonica | Miami, USA | 1978
Image of Palace
South facade and terraced slab stepping to the Bay

ProjectPalace
ArchitectArquitectonica
CityMiami
CountryUSA
Address1541 Brickell Ave.
Building TypeSlab, gallery access
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings254
Date Built1978
Dwelling Types2,3 BR flats; 2-story duplexes
No. Floors42
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Materials
concrete, glass, stucco, aluminum
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesparking, pool, club facilities

Arquitectonica launched itself onto the architectural world with the design of four remarkable apartment buildings built on the Miami waterfront facing Biscayne Bay between 1977 and 1979). Ranging in size from the Babylon of six floors, to the Imperial and Atlantis of over 20 floors, to the huge Palace with 42 floors, these buildings immediately established the firm as a new force in American architecture and housing. Rarely have such abstract, elementary forms and design strategies been applied in such a concentrated, powerful effort to the most unlikely of high design opportunities: luxury, high-rise, condominium apartments. The existence of these four apartment blocks in the midst of a waterfront zone of typical speculative housing developments further exaggerates their extraordinary energy and imagery.

Arquitectionica’s abstract experiments with super grids, primary colors, and elementary geometry began as slightly outrageous cerebral investigations without much apparent potential for actual construction inviting criticism as an architecture of “one-liners”. The built projects, however, are quite real, quality buildings, doubly remarkable considering the economic market for which they were conceived; the abstract intentions mostly survived the obvious constraints of speculative luxury housing. Diagrams which seem too simplistic and too brilliantly-colored as projects, do not seem in the least outrageous in real life and have the effect of providing a level of interest, detail, and readability absolutely vital to rendering monolithic slabs comprehensible at human and urban scales. The red pyramids, giant blue grids, displaced 50’ cubes and “Sky Court”, curving yellow walls, floating red masonry walls, l7-story cutouts, blue or glass roof-top villas, red structural frames, and enormous podiums, are exactly what give these buildings their presence and vitality.

The Palace was the first and the tallest of 3 large slabs designed by Arquitectonica. A 42-story, thin slab raises from a 3-level base, which contains parking terraced apartments and recreational spaces, that front a garden along the waterfront. A curving, palm-lined drive leads up to the base of the slab from Brickell Avenue to the north. The slab, which faces north and south, is rendered as an exposed, concrete frame. Paired apartments are inserted into the two-story high frame with infill panels alternating between curtain-wall glazing and recessed balconies. Intersecting the slab is a lower narrow stepping element with red walls, punched windows, and terraced apartments that step towards the ocean. Where this element intersects the tall slab, it extends out on the north facade and forms a high entrance porte cohere. A vaulted glass structure on the roof contains a unique dwelling that is finished inside in mosaic fiancé. Townhouses along the bay side of the podium open to the waterfront gardens. Originally a pool was planned for the roof of the terraced slab but was repositioned to the landscaped terrace on top of the parking.

The tall slab is a point-access type that is organized around three vertical circulation stacks serving 4 apartments per floor. A gallery circulation system is used in the terraced building and the exit stairs attach to the east side of the stepping red element and are glazed with mirror glass. The circulation systems used here are seldom seen in the US housing. A row of townhouses faces the garden along the waterfront. At first glance, The Palace looks like another example of luxury speculative housing; a high-rise glass slab on a prime site along Biscayne Bay. But Arquitectonica are masters at using a few bold architectonic moves, to take the limited developer pallet to a whole new level: the ensemble of bold geometric forms, the brightly colored walls, the expression of terraces and the exposed frame, and finally, the imaginative development of the roof.

Dunlop, Beth, Arquitectonica, The American Institute of Architects Press, Washington, 1991, pp. 22-29.

Futagawa, Yukio (ed), GA Document 7, A..A. Edita, Tokyo, 1983, pp. 28-33.

Process Architecture 65,1986, p. 45.

Progressive Architecture, Oct. 1982, pp. 88-89.

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