1111 Lincoln Road raises the bar impossibly high for architects in South Florida. On numerous levels, this may be the most sophisticated building in the region. And yet it’s just a garage, which means that for most of us practicing in the area, our work won’t even compare favorably to a pile of rented parking spaces. How did a garage warrant such care, thoughtfulness and expense?
To call 1111 Lincoln Road a garage is to do it an injustice, however. It is an addition to a 1960s SunTrust building, a “curated” collection of boutiques and restaurants, a site for displaying art, and housing. Above all, 11 11 is a landscape extension to the region’s most popular pedestrian street, which turned an abandoned piece of Miami Beach into an important gateway and landmark. What makes the project so special is the way it approaches each of these roles with conceptual clarity and aesthetic rigor.
As an addition, 11 11 (yes, its branded name separates the 11s) has the extraordinary quality of both joining the original building seamlessly and maintaining its autonomy as an independent structure. At ground level, 11 11 uses an undulating band of glazed storefronts under a continuous concrete canopy to unify the two buildings at the edge where they open onto the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. This is a gesture of deference to the city, where the individual identities of the two buildings is suppressed in favor of emphasizing the experience of the street. Above this level, the new building steps back from its neighbor, which it touches only through a series of tenuously balanced bridges. Seen from a distance, 11 11 matches the overall profile of the SunTrust building and shares its spare vocabulary of concrete and glass, but artfully contrasts the original’s dense masses with open volumes defined only by floor slabs. As both foil and supplement, 11 11 is an addition that makes the original better.
Buildings this good only emerge from collaborations between patrons and designers with vision. 11 11’s developer Robert Wennett, has a keen understanding of how to shape vibrant urban spaces, and his architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, are among the most insightful architects practicing today. Baselbased Herzog and de Meuron, whose Miami Art Museum appears to be even more masterful, are known worldwide for buildings with intricate and sensual surfaces. Yet 11 11 offered them a chance to design a building without a skin, and the resulting play of irregularly spaced floor slabs and dancing structural “columns” (is there even a term for these triangular piers?) refer to the pavilions and follies of Lincoln Road, in an homage to Morris Lapidus, the pedestrian mall’s designer. Artist Dan Graham installed a gorgeous glass and steel pavilion, named Morris, as further tribute to the architect who shaped the image of Miami Beach.
11 11 is strikingly successful on a number of levels. The project took a site peripheral to Miami Beach and reestablished it as a center. Much more than a lucrative commercial development, the building and landscape have expanded the cultural vitality of Miami Beach and offered a model of thoughtful urban design 1111 Lincoln Road, by Manuel Mazzanti for the surrounding region.