This week Florida is the new Texas. The state Americans love to hate. But what does that make Miami?
Two pieces of Miami Beach news came across my ticker this morning. First the announcement that architect Rem Koolhaas has won the competition for the redesign of the Miami Beach convention center and the other from the City Commissioner, apologizing for the fact that Miami is indeed becoming part of the Atlantic Ocean.
This from the mayor’s office:
I want to let you know that I am working side by side with City Departments to resolve the serious flooding issues that Miami Beach is experiencing … flooded areas, stalled vehicles, flooding at private residences, flooding in construction areas… the Public Works Department has been troubleshooting pump station operations, clearing of inlets and outfalls, efficient operation of the stormwater systems including two vacuum trucks working to address stormwater and sewer backups… a Taskforce will see how we can respond better to these flooding situations. ..Do we need more vacuum trucks? This is the type of question that we need to examine… I believe that working together as a community and a collaborative effort we can be better prepared.
How heartening that the City pledges to Stand its Ground with a neighborhood-watch task force against rising water levels.
“Get out of our hood or I’ll suck and shoot you right back to where yo came from with the super spout of my shiny big vacuum truck.”
Bring it on!
And bring on the new 600 million convention center a mere two blocks from the big blue intruder.
Did they pick Rem Koolhaas because he’s Dutch? After all the Dutch have been defying water for centuries, building above ground cities below sea level on 30% of their country. Or did they pick him for his celebrity status, this starchitect of all architects?
It was Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett who introduced OMA (The name of Koolhaas’ firm) to the Beach Convention Center project.
Wennet, a Miami native, is no stranger to complete make-overs. Local lore has it that he, pudgy and ordinary looking, disappeared from the Miami scene for “several years” only to reappear one Halloween night in the guise of an impeccable Marilyn Monroe and anonymously claimed the first prize at Tui Prakech’s famous bi-annual Halloween party.
Next he gave Lincoln Road a make-over by hiring architects Herzog deMeuron to create the 1111 plaza, stores and parking garage that give Lincoln Road renewed urban gravitas. Wennet himself perches in his uber nest atop the garage and swoops down into the plaza with all the flamboyant superiority of a Batman nemesis.
While Wennet may be in it for the prize, Koolhaas is never accused of anything other than pragmatic idealism. During a recent presentation at the Colony Theater he left his Miami audience wondering if he even wanted the job. He did not pitch, he did not try to endear himself, he did not flatter, he simply stated the fact that Miami Beach is an “interesting hybrid” as a beach resort and real city. When questioned he was critical of American culture, and showed little faith whether the IQ of the local population could match his proposed plan.
“Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”
Miami’s bid to separate itself from mother state Florida’s identity as the bigot, racist, dumb motherfucker state, boycotted by Stevie Wonder and liberal tourists, and reinvent itself as the cutting edge, Euro-style metropolis of art and design while slowly disappearing into the Atlantic Ocean certainly makes an “interesting hybrid.”
The best piece of advice for the identity challenged city of Miami and the much maligned state of Florida, where thinking (if at all) evolves from the gift of hindsight, is found in OMA’s mandate itself:
“We think before we do…”