Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Cabal of Miami Realtors Caught Burying Giant Statue of St. Joseph

No one really knew how bad the Miami housing market was until the arrest last night of a large number of realtors caught burying a giant statue of St. Joseph in the center of the Miami Circle, a sacred pre-Columbian site at the mouth of the Miami River. Considered to be the patron saint of real estate agents, police were surprised by the effigy's size.

"This is the biggest one we've found yet," advised a S.W.A.T squad spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous. "For years St. Joseph statues have been turning up, but never this size. Usually they're no bigger than 8-inches. This one was over 8-feet tall."

Realtors, long considered a mammon worshipping cult by many theologians, have been burying St. Joseph statues for years in order to hasten a sale. Known as the "underground real estate agent", St. Joseph is usually buried head first in the ground or in a planter on the property. Once the sale is made, it is expected that the sellers unearth the statue and put it in a prominent place in their new home-- not following through on the last part could jeopardize their future good fortune, according to the "instructions" that come with the statues.

Considering Miami has one of the largest Catholic populations in the U.S. and a large number of followers of Santeria, the Afro-Cuban religion that mixes Catholic saints with African gods, it is not surprising that, according to Phil Cates, owner of the website, Miami is the biggest market for these kind of things. Statewide he estimates he's sold 6,000 statues.

And for all the skeptics reading this, Mr. Cates says you can go to his website to read the testimonials on the statue's behalf.

"Sales," he said, "have just gone crazy."

Which may be good for him, but seeing a St. Joseph this size has many financial analysts worried. For the first time in a decade, home prices have fallen in August from sales of the previous year. A report released this week by the Florida Association of Realtors paints an alarming picture. Single family homes fell 34% and condo sales dropped 41% from the previous year.

As two police officers struggled with a realtor who was being led away in handcuffs, he was overheard shouting to anyone who would listen that, "It's not a bubble, I tell you! It's not a bubble!"

According to the Miami S.W.A.T team, most of the rogue realtors were arrested in last night's raid and that the public need not fear those that got away. "Don't worry about them coming into your yards in the middle of the night to bury their statues. They left their shovels behind and we know how to read fingerprints. We'll have them rounded up and put behind bars before you know it."

Asked what law they broke, MVB was told that they had desecrated a sacred site.

"What sacred site?" we asked.

"The Miami Circle."

"'Sacred?'" we laughed. "There's nothing sacred about that circle of holes in the ground. Hell, they only found a shark's tooth and a used condom there. Some experts think it's nothing more than an old septic tank."

"Listen, bub," we were told in no uncertain terms, "As long as our county spent $27 million for it, it's sacred."

MVB can't argue with that.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Why Chicago gets Calatrava and we get the Miami Circle

As of this posting, the tallest building in the world is scheduled to rise in Chicago. World renowned architect Santiago Calatrava's $1.2 billion design is 125 stories and almost 2,000 feet to the top of its spire. Its sensuous design lifts the spirit

Since it has been approved with groundbreaking expected to happen next year, MVB assumes that it has met FAA approval and that it is being built on land where no "sacred ground" or important artifacts were found. Those two factors, along with disgruntled nimby's are hurdles every developer must jump if his or her projects are ever to be built in Miami.

It is ironic how Calatrava describes his vision for the building, using Native American references that could have been used here to justify building the nixed twin condo towers on a pre-Columbian Tequesta site:

"I know that Chicago is an Indian name, and I can imagine in the oldest time the Native Americans arriving at the lake and making a fire, with a tiny column of smoke going up in the air," Calatrava said. "With this simple gesture of turning one floor a little past another, you achieve this form."

Instead of allowing knee-jerk political correctness give us a $27-million-public-dollar circle of holes in the ground known as the "Miami Circle," and to MVB as "the thing", city officials could have made a compromise between the past and the present that would have allowed construction of the towers with preservation of "the thing" as we have argued for in this blog.

As long as visionaries are hobbled by the visionless, Miami will be searching for a world-worthy architectural identity.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Miami's Shame: The Miami Marine Stadium

If you came to live in Miami after 1992's Hurricane Andrew and aren't a boater, you probably don't know this once wonderful vision still exists. Because of a report of stress cracks in its cantilevered concrete roof following that hurricane, the county shut down the public facility fearing the roof might collapse at any minute. Well, its been 14-years and, despite total abandonment, the roof is still there, a sad reminder of its glory days.

Designed by Miami based Pancoast, Ferendino Spillis + Candela, it opened in 1963 and was-- and still may be-- the largest unsupported concrete span in the world. That alone would have been worth the effort to repair the stadium. For all you "newcomers" and those who live someplace else here are some interesting tidbits on the stadium:

>The stadium was designed for hydroplane racing and it quickly became one of the most important venues on the circuit with the late great local Budweiser distributor Bernie Little winning race after race with his Miss Budweiser. By the time the stadium closed in 1992, hydroplanes were reaching 170mph. Now they have passed 220mph. Whether or not they can reach those speeds in this stadium course will never be known. As an aside, only one word can describe unlimited hydroplane racing at the stadium as the huge boats roared by: thrilling. If you never had a chance to see those unlimited races, to hear the roar of those jet turbines, to smell the salt air, and to feel the ocean breeze wafting up across Virginia Key on a sunny day, then you truly missed something. There was nothing like it in the world and there still isn't.

>1972: President Nixon made an appearance there with Sammy Davis, Jr.

>Jimmy Buffet, Tony Bennett, and a host of other entertainers and orchestras performed there on a floating stage for "moonlight concerts" in front of the stands. Boaters were allowed to drop anchor and watch from the water.

>1992: Declared unsafe after Hurricane Andrew.

>2002: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz promises to refurbish the Marine Stadium.

For fourteen-years it was neglected and left to decay by the county and city governments. In that time it has probably become the largest graffiti canvas in the world. There is hardly a surface not "tagged". It defines the word "trashed." The restroom facilities have been ransacked. To see it now and to remember what it once was makes you want to cry.

The initial structural report spoke of hairline fractures in the concrete roof and made the supposition that they may have been there before Hurricane Andrew. We're sure they are much worse now. If there had been someone around in government with enough vision, maybe it could have been repaired at a reasonable price. Now, the way construction costs have skyrocketed, the odds of ever seeing the stadium restored look slim to none.

It's been four years since Mayor Diaz promised to repair the stadium. We guess he forgot about it like so many others have. Too bad for all of us. As a community, it was something to be proud of , a unique thing to rally round and to enjoy. Maybe readers of this blog will get excited and want to remind Mayor Diaz about the diamond in the rough just a short boat ride from city hall. You can send him an email and other city officials by clicking here. In fact, you could remind all of our county and city officials about the Marine Stadium by clicking the links provided on MVB's homepage. Who knows, maybe one of them will want to save it. With a little vision, maybe money could be raised to fund the restoration by selling naming rights to the stadium. First one that comes to our mind: Budweiser.
UpDate (4/18/08): After a magazine article in the January 2008 edition of Propeller magazine, 10 posts on the subject, and one-and-a-half years after our first post, the Miami Herald reports today that "a coalition of architects, preservationists, activists, historians, rowers, boaters and plain Miamians who believe a restored and reactivated Marine Stadium would become an iconic landmark in a rejuvenating Miami" will be throwing a fundraiser this Saturday at the adjacent Miami Rowing Club. The event includes boat tours of the stadium. "The group, with the backing of the Dade Heritage Trust, will submit a study to the city's office of historic preservation next week requesting that the stadium be declared a historic structure." Even its architect, 73-year-old Hilario Candela, has emerged from 16-years of silence to back this endeavor. Maybe our consistent harangue was effective. We'd like to think so. We believe in getting "ideas out there" so they can effect change. That was one of the main reasons this blog was started. Hopefully the neglect won't make this new effort moot.
UpDate (8/20/08): The third public meeting for the Virginia Key Master Plan will be held Tuesday, August 26, 2008. The latest design ideas will be presented by EDSA, the lead consultant.

When & WhereTuesday, August 26, 2008
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.Miami City Hall Chambers
3500 Pan American Drive

For more information on the Virginia Key Master Plan, please visit
UpDate (8/27): The "experts," AKA city planners/consultants, came back with the latest designs for Virginia Key. Despite an earlier charette where the public overwhelmingly agreed that the Marine Stadium should be saved, it is glaringly absent from this latest iteration. In its place: Two 5-story parking garages, a "dry-stack" boat storage for 700 boats, 41,000sf of "small scale retail," and Olympic-sized swimming pools among other sundry items. The city and its experts have effectively destroyed one of the few things that makes Miami unique in the world and replaced it with the pedestrian. The Marine Stadium was the only one of its kind on the planet. Now, because it might be "cost prohibitive" to fix-up, we have become a lesser city, less unique, and a people less worthy of being taken seriously, at being looked upon by others as blessed, lucky, special and cool.

UpDate (9/19/08): Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium pulled off a major coup: they got the World Monuments Fund to endorse saving the Marine Stadium. This couldn't have happened at a better time because The City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board will discuss and possibly make a determination of the final historic designation of the Miami Marine Stadium at their meeting on Tuesday, October 7, at 3:00 PM, City of Miami Commission Chambers. Failure to do so should make them look like idiots-- or at least suspiciously on the take. If you got the time, try to stop by to make your voice heard.

UpDate (10/7/08): The City of Miami historic preservation board finally saw the light: by a vote of 8-0, it agreed to designate the Miami Marine Stadium worthy of preservation as an historic site. Let's see the visionless try to knock it down now!

UpDate (4/27/09): The Miami Marine Stadium becomes one of eleven buildings on the National Trust for Historic Preservation thanks in part to the efforts of Miami architect Jorge Hernandez and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium. Let's see our visionless bureaucrats try to touch the old lady now.

UpDate (6/29/2012):

Click "Labels" below for more postings on this subject.

A Solution to Miami Public Housing Crisis: "Logical Homes"

California architect Peter DeMaria whom MVB championed in the August posting "Public Housing Answer..." because we believe his recycled shipping containers would make a quick and affordable solution to our current public housing crisis, is launching a new company called Logical Homes. The first thing you'll notice about these affordable "pre-fab" homes (top picture) is that the shipping containers have been incorporated into more conventional designs, completely concealing them from view.

"Similar to the lack of affordable home situation in Miami," Mr. DeMaria says in an email to MVB, "the same exists here in LA. We have been fortunate to be working with a member of the City of LA and his contacts within the Mayor's office to create affordable and high quality homes. One of our biggest goals is to make the dream of home ownership a reality for many people."

He goes on to state that the "affordability index" in LA "floats around the 15% level. What that means is, only 15% of the people in LA can afford to purchase a home here! What are the other 85% going to do is the question we are hoping to answer with our new company. We've got single family and multifamily projects that are designed and permitted."

He adds, "I also attached a photo of the construction progress of a more contemporary home here in Redondo Beach (second picture). I may eventually send you some shots of the mixed use/mult-family project in Venice/LA; we broke ground on it yesterday. It all sounds much easier than it is when it comes to getting over the hurdles in place here in LA (like Miami) but none the less, we're committed to doing some great things for many people.

"Our Florida office move will take place sometime after our company launch in late October.

"Your concern for your fellow citizens and Miami is admirable, keep it up! Stay in touch and keep us abreast of any news and thanks again for the article.

Peter DeMaria

MVB is excited about DeMaria's innovative ideas and his concern for creating affordable homes. We thank him for his personal response and can only add, "Get thee here ASAP!"

You can see a short video on the construction of one of these homes here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When "Deeply Sorry" Isn't Good Enough, Father Al Tells Radical Muslims They Can Kiss His Baptized Buttocks

MVB Profile on Father Al Kadah

MVB: So, Father, just what kind of a priest are you anyway?
FAK: I'm one pissed off priest. Can't you tell?
MVB: Whoe, big fellow. What's got your feathers ruffled?
FAK: Muslims.
MVB: Muslims? Where's your tolerance?
FAK: Where's theirs?
MVB: Does the Catholic Church know Muslims piss you off?
FAK: They know. I've been getting counseling.
MVB: And?
FAK: It didn't help. I couldn't get enough therapy time. The counselors were all booked, you know, with those "other guys."
MVB: You mean the pedophiles?
FAK: Sh-h-h! Keep it down, man. It's not something we want bandied about. No, the other guys.
MVB: The "other guys"?
FAK (whispering): The homosexuals. Do I have to spell it out for you?
MVB: Sorry. We just kinda assumed--
FAK: Well don't. There are a lot of good men in the priesthood who are as normal as you and me. Anyway, when it comes to them Muslims, it's all about political correctness. God forbid we might say something to piss them off and from what I can tell, it doesn't take much. Talk about hypersensitive. I guess they're a lot like them Cubans you got down there who get all bent out of shape over just about anything if it's about Cuba and it ain't the way they see it. You know, like how they went bonkers over that school book, want it banned and all, started marching up and down the streets and everything. What was it? A book about Cuba written for second graders, right?
MVB: Whoe, Father Al, you don't want to go there.
FAK: Why not?
MVB: They'll think you don't like them too. That could be dangerous.
FAK: "Dangerous"? Do they strap bombs to themselves too?
MVB: Of course not.
FAK: Then what do I have to be afraid of? I'd take my chances with a room full of Cubans any day than one full of Muslims. Know what I mean?
MVB: Uh, no, not really.
FAK: My, God, boy, you won't see a bunch of Cubans tripping over your dead body trying to get at them heavenly virgins unlike those Muslims when they blow themselves up and you along with them! So, don't go around telling people I don't like Cubans! My God, most of 'em are Catholic for crisesakes! Right? How can't I like 'em? Geese.
MVB: OK, relax. Maybe you might want to check out some anger management classes down at the Y.
FAK: And maybe you might wanna mind you own goddamn business.
MVB: You know what? I think this interview is over.

(Your interviewer got up to leave but Father Kadah reached out and grabbed his hand to stop him.)

FAK: I'm sorry, please forgive me. Please don't go. I have a confession to make.
MVB: A "confession to make"?

(You guessed it, the interviewer stayed.)

FAK: Man, do I feel like I'm on the wrong side of the confessional here.

(A pregnant pause followed as Father Kadah wrung his hands and looked around uneasily.)

They kicked me out of the Church last week.
MVB: What? Why?
FAK: Hell-- Sorry. I know I've got some issues to work on. Please forgive me. Anyway, when our Holy Father pissed off the whole damn Muslim world-- got 'em marching in the streets, cursing us out, burning churches, killing nuns, you know, the basic Muslim reaction to this kind of stuff-- for something the poor guy was quoting from a book for crisesakes-- it's not like he actually believed it, he was just trying to make a point. Hell, he even summed up that speech asking people to be tolerant of each other's faith. But did that get picked up? No-o-o. Even made him apologize for crying out loud. You know, I'm tired of trying to watch my p's and q's all the time around these people. I may be a priest, but I'm an American priest and, by God, I'm going to start acting like one. I'm gonna tell it like it is-- like the Holy Father was trying to do-- but I ain't backing down because I might have offended a bunch of zealots with a death wish. My, God, it's getting to the point you're afraid to say anything like in my last marriage.
MVB: Your "last marrigage"?
FAK: Another time, another life. Anyway, I...I tried my best to follow in his footsteps. You know, turn the other cheek and all that stuff so last Sunday I preached about tolerance.
MVB: And that got you thrown out of the Catholic Church?
FAK: Well, it started out okay, but somewhere around the middle, I guess I kinda wavered from the original text.
MVB: Please tell us you didn't say anything inflammatory about "them Muslims."
FAK: Well, I didn't think I crossed the line, but I guess I did.
MVB: Okay, what'd you say?
FAK: Well, you know, it's always good to try to work in a joke or two to lighten up the homily so I thought I'd compare radical Muslims to homicidal Postal Workers.
MVB: Father Al, you can kiss your mail good-bye.
FAK: That's what somebody else said. Do you really think they'll keep my mail from me? Hey, it was only a joke.
MVB: Father, please, get back to the "joke."
FAK: Okay. Anyway, I only suggested that instead of using "going Postal" when describing someone who loses it real bad and wants to murder people because of it, why not substitute "going Muslim?" Funny, right?
MVB: Oh, geese. You're in big trouble now.
FAK: Hey, don't I know it. I'm the defrocked priest here you know.
MVB: That's right. You're a defrocked priest. Then why are you running around dressed like that?
FAK: Because it's the only clothes I got.
MVB: We like the Wayfarers and the backward Kangol with the cross. Nice touch.
FAK: Thanks. It's all part of my "bad boy" image.
MVB: "Bad boy image"?
FAK: It's my publicist's idea.
MVB: "Publicist"? What do you need a publicist for? If anything, you need a job.
FAK: As it turns out I have a job and a following.
MVB: A "following"?
FAK: Yeah, seems like some of my parishioners like me so much they want me to keep preaching to them so we rustled up a storefront church right across the street from the "real one."

(Father Kadah made quotation marks in the air with his hands.)

Call it "The Church for the Politically Incorrect." .

(He did it again.)

Even got a website.
MVB: You're kidding.
FAK: It's Membership is growing by leaps and bounds.
MVB: Why do you think that is?
FAK: It's the message and the messenger. I'm a good preacher. You should have seen my last sermon when I dropped my drawers in the "real church".


MVB: You "dropped your drawers"? Please tell us you're talking about a chest of drawers or maybe even a bureau?
FAK: Sorry, bud, but I always try to end my sermons with a bang. If nothing else, it at least wakes 'em up.

(At this point, Father Al nudged the interviewer to see if he "got it". The interviewer nodded and smiled politely.)

Anyway, I was really getting into it, you know, reaching a crescendo, my voice rising to a near falsetto, when I turned on the congregation, dropped my pants and screamed, "You Muslims can kiss my baptized buttocks!"
MVB: Oh, lord.
FAK: That's what they said.
MVB: Talk about turning the other cheek.
FAK: Hey, that's a good one. I think I'll use it in next week's sermon.
MVB: Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Miami Circle: What it could have been

Now that there is a strong possibility that the Miami Circle (which from this point on will be referred to as "the thing"*) might actually be a giant "Smiley Face" (see earlier entry) and the first earliest recording of man having a sense of humor, MVB would like to take this opportunity to show what could have been if county government had handled the original discovery differently. Instead of forking over nearly $27 million dollars of taxpayers money in 1999 to the developer to stop him from developing (with nothing to show for it as of this date-- the site is covered in sand to "preserve it"), a more rational approach would have required the developer to include "the thing" in the project's design. As can be seen in the picture above, "the thing" is enclosed in an air-conditioned atrium. This would allow unsuspecting tourists or people with way too much time on their hands to look down at it from the spiraling floors above and ponder the meaning of it all.

"What the *@#%?" they may well have asked. But alas, no one will ever know.

Our fear, however, is that even our suggested compromise would not be a win-win for both parties because we see, over time, that "the thing" will become nothing more than a giant ash tray and trash can for all those who see it, i.e., because of its pockmarked surface, it would have called eternally to our subconscious to throw something into it-- as the county did in 1999.

Lost Property Taxes
The irony here is that "the thing" lies within the City of Miami, one of the poorest cities in the U.S. If the developer had been allowed to build, it was estimated back then that the twin condo towers would have brought the city $1.1 million per year in property taxes which could have gone toward building public funded affordable housing.

*MVB thinks the circle is atrocious, lacking in the basics of the best archeological discoveries which tease the imagination. Too bad there isn't some sort of scale that would grade discoveries based on how they speak to the human spirit as being worthy or worthless of preservation. If it had been an ancient mosaic floor, MVB would be behind preserving it-- and incorporating it into a tax generating machine for the city of Miami.

Poor ex-Miami mayor Joe Carollo, say what you will about the man, for all of his shortcomings, he was the only one who wanted to preserve the circle and allow the developer to continue developing. His plan was to have a stone mason come in and move it so the buildings could be erected. His city, which was the poorest city in the U.S. at that time, could have used the taxes it would have brought in but he was overruled by the county commission and rival mayor Alex Pinellas. Carollo said at that time of Pinellas, "What he is proposing is the destruction of the City of Miami as an entity."

Well, the city is still standing albeit precariously on spindly-- but pretty-- legs because of condo speculators. But what will happen if the bubble bursts as predicted? Will the world see Miami and the county for what it may truly be, a provincial burb grasping for anything that falls out of a trash heap to justify its existence; a shallow, hollow city of empty high-end condos and possibly the brunt of a giant cosmic joke?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Earliest Known New World Written Language Points to Miami

Following the announcement in Science magazine of the earliest known example of a written language in the New World, MVB resident archeologist Bobby Bermudez took it upon himself to travel to Mexico to offer his services in translating the new find. The Olmec inscription is estimated to be close to 3,000 years old but Mr. Bermudez, fresh off his controversial theory about the Miami Circle, contends that the faintly etched symbols on a stone found beneath a giant Olmec head belong to what may be the first known advertisement.

"If my interpretation is correct," Mr. Bermudez reports from his hospital bed at Baptist Hospital in Kendall, FL., where he is being treated for a collapsed lung and broken bones, "I will go down in history as the man who discovered the first advertisment."

Mr. Bermudez, despite warnings from fellow archeologists not to go digging around the base of the giant head because the soil was unstable, was crushed by the head when it fell over on top of him.

"I needed to bolster my theory and, in order to do that, I felt it was necessary to dig further, if you will," he continued, "to see what I could find at the sight of the original discovery. Sure, it hurts, but it was worth it in the end."

And what was his important discovery? According to Mr. Bermudez, the slab discovered under the giant head was connected to a larger inscription that, when translated, says: "What happens in Miami stays in Miami."

Coincidence? We Think Not

Our MiamiMegaplex idea has been bouncing around since 2003 and we are happy to see that by putting it freely up in the ether something might actually come of it. Today the Miami Herald ran a story about the proposed Marlins stadium (Glenn Straub, owner of the Arena is being sued by a developer who claims Straub is trying to back out of a contract to sell the Arena to him) that includes a graphic that looks suspiciously like our proposal.

And that's okay. Everyone from elected officials to Straub, the Miami Herald and Miami Today, MLB, and sports journalists from all media were apprised of this idea. Sometimes to get something, you have to give it away. Although it is not exactly like ours, it is so close to it that it is scary. Our plan of course saves the Arena by attaching it to the stadium and adding a hotel in the outfield. In this configuration, it splits the cost of building such a "megaplex" between the partners that may include MLB, Straub (if he retains ownership of the Arena), and a hotel chain. In so doing, it ensures year-round use of the stadium (tractor pulls, concerts, etc) plus it allows booking of bigger conventions which can spill out from the Arena into the enclosed stadium field. One of the unique parts of our plan is to attach the "megaplex" to the existing MetroRail line by building the stadium over the rail line to get the most out of a tight space. You can read more about our MiamiMegaplex concept at an earlier entry ("New Downtown Miami Baseball Stadium") or go to our blog's official website Once there, click the "MiamiMegaplex" button.

UpDate (7/27/08): Glenn Straub, owner of the Miami Arena, announces he will tear it down to build a baseball stadium-- if he can strike a deal with the City of Miami and the Florida Marlins. Part of the deal he wants is to gain title to the Orange Bowl site (now torn down) to build affordable housing. Initial reaction from the Marlins and the city: not interested. Typical. And surprising since at one time the Marlins insisted on a downtown site.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Convocation of Sycophants

As it turned out, I was the only one in the room who wanted Gehry.

Resounding applause followed the announcement today that Herzog & de Meuron would be the architects who will design the new Miami Art Museum in Bicentennial Park. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. It was then that I realized that I was also a naive fool. I actually believed choices would be given to the committee but instead, Terence Riley, the new director of the museum, recommended only the Swiss firm. When the panel of five had no questions, it all started to become clear when the august body rubber stamped his choice with a unanimous vote in favor of the recommendations. Again, this met hearty applause from a room filled with approximately 100 people, all of whom seemed to know each other because of the loud conversation and extreme cheek kissing going on before the meeting commenced. In retrospect, it was as if members of the museum made it a point to rally behind their new director's choice, stuffing the small room with eager-to-please-ringers.

When it was opened to the public for questions, it turned out I was the only one in the room who was disappointed in not getting the most important architect since Appolodorous of Damascus to design what could have been Miami's signature building. No one backed me up. I stood alone. I felt a lot like a Jew who stumbled into a Nazi rally. Riley took my question: After more than meeting all of the criteria he had laid out for selection, why wasn't Frank Gehry not chosen? His response was less than adequate for me. It seemed he was straining to justify his choice. Which is understandable considering Gehry's team has created some of the most well-known buildings in the world, single-handedly defining the term "destination architecture". When I spoke, I said your choice appeals more to the intellect than to the spirit of the common man. If the choice had been put up on the November ballot as pictures only of the works of both architectural firms, I'm sure the man-in-the-booth would have chosen Gehry's exciting, spirit lifting works. His stuff speaks to the heart and gets you excited about all of the possibilities the future may bring because his work is of the future. There has been nothing like it before or since and, like the emergence of Picasso who redefined art, Gehry is making us rethink what is architecture and I believe, as Picasso has shown, everything that follows Gehry will be second tier. It was a wasted historic moment and Miami still must wait for that one defining structure. It's just too bad that the last best piece of public land suitable for such a building won't see a Gehry on it.

Think about it. Not one person backed me up. No one in that room thought Gehry was worthy. Amazing.

Call me a sore loser, but this is my blog and I'll cry if I want to.

Verticus Erectus

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Random Thingies

  • Regarding the September 5th primaries, we are reminded by David Rosen of Miami Beach that, despite the low voter turnout, $8 million was spent by politicians and special interest groups "on a minor campaign in which school spending was a central issue, but they haven't the cash to fund schools properly." He figured $400.00 was spent for every vote cast. Well, if that seems obscene to you, you don't have to worry about being associated with a campaign like that if you volunteer your time for Frank Rollason. Trust me, this truly is a "grass roots campaign" and because of that, it has an element of fresh air about it.

  • Regarding 9/11: The Miami Herald ran an interesting article about African-American sculptor Michael Richards who was killed in his Twin Tower studio. Sadly, it reminded MVB of the irony of chance encounters. Mr. Richards also had a studio space in the artists co-op on Lincoln Road. That's where we first discovered his work-- through a peephole. Until his death, we had assumed the artist behind the 1999 sculpture "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian" was a woman. One studio there had its windows papered up save one small opening at the door. Peeking through that opening revealed an African-American woman smoothing the clay sculpture of what would become the bronze "Tar Baby." It was one of those special, magical moments because we knew we were watching the work of a master sculptor who seemed to be unaware of our presence. The Herald pointed out the "dreadful irony" of an artist who created a life-size airman stabbed with multiple daggers shaped like airplanes who is murdered by crazed zealots in hi-jacked airplanes. (Please note that the sculpture is a take on the famous martyrdom of St. Sebastian inspired works where, instead of getting shot with arrows, it is reimagined with a Tuskegee World War II pilot fighting a war for a country that, at that time, promoted segregation and considered them unequal to the task of fighting a common enemy, taking hits from fighter planes).

  • In this month's Ocean Drive there is an extensive article on talented local husband and wife architects Jacqueline Gonzalez-Touzet and Carlos Prio-Touzet. Their firm, The Touzet Studio, is responsible for some fresh, unique buildings around town (Vitri in SoBe). One of their most exciting projects will be built in downtown Miami on N.E 2nd Ave and 11th Street alongside I-395 and behind 10 Museum Tower. It's the kind of building that makes you proud to be from Miami. It's got a lot of fun things going on including twin "he and she" towers, sexual imagery, and giant leopard spots. And, according to the article, it may actually be affordable. Check out the website to see for yourself. The only thing MVB wishes it had was more height because it will be sitting in a valley behind the Biscayne Boulevard "wall" of towers when it should be rising on a slope that, at least to the eye, is more appealing. The building still doesn't have a name but it could have been the first to pioneer buildings taller than those in front of them if for no other reason than to offer views of the bay to those who can afford them on the uppermost floors. As it now stands, those bay views will be blocked by the new towers under construction in front of it. This is a petty criticism for sure, because overall, the building is truly worthy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Miami: Ancient Athens it Ain't

When we heard that the proposed $23 million mega-yacht marina for Watson Island's $480 million "Island Gardens" hotel project would include twin 10-foot statues atop 70' columns it made us think of the ancient Greeks and specifically the Colossus of Rhodes, a grand vision if ever there was one. The statues will cap two 470-foot-long piers that will accommodate yachts up to 465 feet, although we're sure they might bend the rules if someone showed up in a 500-footer. Although MVB has criticized the architecture for the twin hotels that will be built on the last great piece of public land behind the marina for lacking imagination and daring (see blog entry "Miami Island Gardens: What could have been"), we thought this was a good idea. Unfortunately, this is Miami where ideas in general are subject to the whims of committees, political correctness, and vocal minorities. By the time they run that gauntlet, those ideas have been nitpicked to the point where the bold and gutsy have been replaced with the weakened and emaciated. Case in point: Executive Director Cynthia Guerra of the Tropical Audubon Society is against it because it seems the county has an ordinance that prohibits freestanding items that can topple off a dock and pollute a marine environment. Nancy Liebman, President of something called the "Urban Environment League of Greater Miami" is against it because she believes it will only cater to an "international elite" while denying the public access to the waterfront.

Can you imagine what kind of artifacts would have been left behind from ancient cultures if they had people like Guerra and Liebman running around back then?

Actually, we can. Our staff archeologist Bobby Bermudez reports that recent excavations at the Acropolis have uncovered a stela with an inscription recording the public tossing of two malcontents over the side of the Acropolis. It seemed these people were against building anything on top of the mesa that might interfere with the public's access to the "best piece of public property in Athens." Plus, they were concerned that the proposed Parthenon might fall down one day on top of some poor unsuspecting citizen.

Of course Miami isn't ancient Greece and we are not advocating throwing anyone off the edge of Watson Island (it's only about three feet above sea level so it wouldn't do much good anyway) but we do hope that the County Commission will approve this venture.

As for the Colossus of Rhodes? Bobby Bermudez tells us it was erected in 304 B.C. by the people who lived on the island after fighting off an invasion. To give thanks to their god Helios, they took the left over armor of the defeated enemy, melted it down, and fashioned it into one of the "Seven Wonders of the World." At 110-feet high, it stood for 56-years before an earthquake knocked it over. Fearing the god was angry at them, they refused to put it back up-- even after a pharaoh offered to do it for them. For nearly a thousand years, the giant statue lay in ruins along the harbor until the 7th Century when Arabs conquered Rhodes, broke the statue into smaller pieces and sold it for scrap metal. Legend has it that it took 900 camels to carry the great idea away.

We wonder what archaeologists might find a thousand years from now when excavating Miami? Will its artifacts tell them Miami was a city of great ideas or will the Liebmans and Guerras give the future a picture of a past not much different than what was left behind by the Tequestas?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Aesthetics of Atrocity: Remembering 9/11

Getting the aesthetics of atrocity right by committee has taken five years with nothing to show for it. Estimated costs of completing the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero is closing in on a billion dollars. It has been our contention from the beginning that the inspiration was always right there in front of the committee's collective faces, staring back in stark, abject horror at them and anyone who looked back at it: the still standing remnant of shattered dreams and lives in a building once known as the World Trade Center. They should have kept it and etched the names of those murdered on that day in the concrete walls surrounding the twin foundations. They almost had it right when they marked the site at night with twin searchlights reaching heavenward. So subtle, so profound. Now, it seems they just want to make the horror and the implications of what it all means for our future to go away by corralling the chaos and subjugating it to a design that buries it below a park where you can safely go to feed the pigeons. We keep hearing this voice somewhere on the committee: "Yeah, it was a horrible thing, but that doesn't mean we can't make it pretty. My God, the last thing we need to do is to scare people away."

Too bad for us. We're reminded of Berlin's $35 million dollar "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." Although we truly believe "less is more" when it comes to art and architecture, leave it to the Germans to take that idea which rose from their culture to construct a memorial bereft of hope and spirit. It redefines "stark." Maybe that was the point but the remaining concentration camps say more than that memorial ever will. Still, it didn't keep college students from playing hide-and-seek between the dark, concrete blocks. If they had been little kids, hopefully a parent would have told them to stop and explained why. But these were America's educated elite backpacking across Europe. The same ones, we fear, who will be someday happily feeding the pigeons in the new park over Ground Zero; the genesis seed of Bradbury's "Eloy".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Miami Circle: Giant Smiley Face

Miami archaeologist Bobby Bermudez discovered today that the world famous Miami Circle is an ancient giant "Smiley Face."

Originally uncovered in 1998 when a developer was clearing the land to erect twin condo towers, it has taken Mr. Bermudez eight long years of tedious scholarship to decode the mysterious holes in the ground at the mouth of the Miami River. "Although some experts believe the holes are a septic tank, through an arduous process that involved such disparate fields as computer mapping, Mayan studies, and channeling, I have been able to determine that the Miami Circle is a monumental ceremonial mask to the pre-Columbian Tequesta's god of mirth."

"Not very much is known about the Tequestas except that they were tall, naked, and dead before the Conquistadors ever set foot on Florida," Mr. Bermudez continued. "But it's good to know they had a sense of humor. In fact, this is the earliest known example of humankind possessing a sense of humor. Except for some erotic art found on the walls of Pompei, most artifacts depict us as a violent, blood-letting superstitious lot so, in that regard, this is one of the most important discoveries ever made, if I do say so myself."

Depending on where you live and how desperate you are for a little piece of history, digging up the past can be expensive. At that time, to appease a small but vocal minority of preservationists, "new age" wackos, members of the Mayan Huichol tribe and representatives of the "Taino people" who set up camp at the site for a 24-hour tom-tom-athon, County government wrote a check for $26.7 million dollars to the developer to stop developing. Soon after, to preserve the holes, the excavation was covered up with sand and will remain so until funding can be found to develop an educational exhibit.

Despite Mr. Bermudez's assertions, MVB suspects the Miami Circle really is nothing more than the remains of a septic tank and that the original archaeologists who discovered it came to the same conclusion after-the-fact and chose to cover it up with a couple of dump truck loads of sand to avoid any embarrassment to their careers.

UpDate (11/8/2008): AP reports the discovery of a "dinosaur dance floor" by University of Utah scientists was recently proven by paleontologists to be nothing more than a "collection of potholes caused by erosion in the sandstone." This jump to conclusions by "experts" reminds of us of the travesty that happened here.