The architectural cognoscenti have long hailed Miami for its treasure trove of Modernist and Art Deco buildings. But like Los Angeles, Tijuana and the outskirts of Cali, Colombia, the city is also home to a flourishing, lesser-known school of 20th century architecture known as “narchitecture”—buildings that look as if they were commissioned by drug dealers. (For the record: it is my esteemed colleague, Rosa Lowinger, who baptized this important, if unheralded, movement.)
Narchitecture is the pit bull of architecture. It grabs you by the (eye) balls and doesn’t let go, marrying a bevy of Mediterranean styles—neo-Classical, Spanish Revival and Fascist—with the vernacular American school known as Contemporary McMansion. The structures are big, overly-decorous and unabashedly gaudy, and, in their placement, show a complete disregard for their environment. The style veers heavily towards the monumental and its decorative motifs include Spanish tile, Roman-style arches and lots and lots of Italianate columns. It is an architecture that says, “Look at me. But don’t ask what I do.”
If you’re in town for Art Basel, don’t miss an opportunity to get on a boat and see Miami’s many fine examples of residential narchitecture.
Herewith, a visual tour (click on the photos to view them large):
Just because a building wasn’t narchitectural to begin with doesn’t mean it can’t be made to look that way through abundant and ebullient renovation. The building above retains its classic Deco silhouette, but add a couple thousand feet of Italianate balustrades, a smattering of Ionic columns, and a zingy coat of margarine-yellow paint…and presto! narchitecture is achieved.
Bling it on: Ornamentation is essential to narchitecture, be it Classical Roman-style statuary, lithe women in thong bikinis or a very large, brightly-painted Cigarette boat that can reach speeds well beyond anything owned by the Coast Guard.
By C-Monster. With reporting by San Suzie, our far-flung correspondent.