Architects create list of Florida’s best buildings

The Florida Chapter of The American Institute of Architects is celebrating its centennial with its selection of 100 of the most noteworthy buildings in the state. The Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places online program recognizes buildings that represent the best in architectural achievement. Choices range from the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg to the Olympia Theatre at the Gusman Center in downtown Miami.

“The significance is to expose the people of Florida, especially South Florida, to the wonderful history of projects we have here in our area and to get them to go on the website to become more aware about them,” said Natividad Soto, AIA Florida vice president.

The recognition is “long overdue,” said local historian Arva Moore Parks, acting director of the Coral Gables Museum. Coral Gables is represented by its historic Biltmore Hotel, originally designed in 1926 by Shultze and Weaver. “We’re getting appreciation for our architecture that maybe was overlooked in the past, so I’m pleased to see that many out of the 100 are from Miami,” she said.

Indeed, Miami-Dade represents more than 20 percent of the picks, with 22 buildings cited. These include the new parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road which was designed by Herzog DeMeuron in 2009 and oldies like Vizcaya which was initiated by James Deering in 1916. Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove, designed by Clinton MacKenzie in 1916, the Gumenick Chapel at Temple Israel of Greater Miami by Kenneth Treister in 1967 and Morris Lapidus’ work at the Fontainebleau in 1953 also are among the selections.

“We are fortunate to have our community graced with so many beautiful buildings designed by prestigious architects from all over the world,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement last week.

“Not surprised,” added Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention Visitors Bureau. “We have some of the most interesting architecture in the world,” he said, citing the parking garage on Lincoln Road, one of the more unusual picks that not only made the architects’ list but found itself on the front page of the New York Times in January 2011. The garage, which offers expansive views of the mall and surrounding areas of South Beach has become a popular spot for weddings, parties and even yoga classes.

“Who in their wildest dreams would think a parking garage at the end of Lincoln Road would become this famous,” Talbert laughed. “It’s so Miami.”

The public now has its turn to join their voices with the 3,200-member architects’ group and vote on the best of the best in the competition. Visit www.aiafltop100.org to select your favorite building via online voting through April 6.

So far more than 300,000 votes have been registered, with the landmark Fontainebleau in Miami Beach and Miami’s Bank of America Tower as early leaders.

The initial idea of the contest, Soto said, was to use the buildings as a way to create a sense of community, “especially in our area that has a lot of people that are not long-term residents and not familiar with the history of our community. It’s a celebration of what we’ve accomplished in our short history. …[E]ven though we haven’t been around as long as some other cities in the United States like Boston or Washington, we are starting to appreciate our history and this is a way of highlighting that,” Soto said.

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