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?

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