Category: Narchitecture

Photo Diary: When classicism meets the northern Peruvian coast.

Peru has always struck me as a totally whacked out place for its extravagant fusion of cultures. But the city of Chiclayo has taken it to another level. In an area of the arid northern coast once ruled by the Moche (a culture known for its sublime ceramic sculpture), you can feast your eyes on a city park stuffed full of faux classical statuary made of the finest plaster fiberglass money can buy.

On a sort of related note: This is where my family hails from. Ciudad heroica, indeed.

The Viceroy: The Official Hotel of at the Basel Frazzle 2009.

A bile-colored chandelier just brings the whole Phillipe Starck-designed spa together. (All photos by San Suzie.)

If the city of Miami gave a prize for the hotel that most embodies the anything-goes glamor of the December art fairs minus the pretentiousness of artistic content, the winner would surely be the new Viceroy on Brickell Avenue.  The brainchild of Miami-based developer Jorge M. Perez of the Related Group, the Viceroy offers Fall-of-Rome narchitectural splendor realized by the design triumvirate of Miami-based Arquitectonica (exteriors), interiors maven Phillipe Starck (spa) and design wunderplaymate Kelly Wearstler (hotel).

Located on the lower 15 floors of the center of three soaring and mostly unsold condo towers, the hotel’s art-inspired grandiloquence begs the question of whether buying pricey originals makes any sense in trying economic times when design-based knock-offs can appear just as ostentatious. Fortunately, guests will have ample time for such contemplation while getting “non-surgical facelifts” at the marble-clad, chandelier-encrusted, 28,000 square-foot spa — a studiously tranquil environment permeated by the pungent scent of excess.

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Lima, Day 10: Narchitecture, pre-Columbian style.

Has to be seen to be believed. (Photos by C-M.)

Inca-style stone detailing, a tumi-shaped whatchamahoozit and a head- scratching roof thingie that appears to fuse Moche iconography with a Paracas color palette. In other words, the type of warrior architecture that would do a wannabe drug lord right.

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So Many Columns, So Little Time: The narchitecture of the Florida panhandle.

’80s-style Spanish Mediterranean + ginormous columns + fugly color palette = Narchitecture. (Photos by C-M.) 

If narchitecture is architecture that looks as if it were commissioned by drug traffickers, then the narchitecture of northwest Florida would appear to have been devised by their thuggish suburban cousins. This thriving regional school of design takes narchitectural staples, such as Italianate balustrades and Classical columns, and showcases them against a backdrop of oversized structures that scream ‘stuccoed Mediterranean citadel’ and ‘psycho homeowners association’ — all at the same time. Not to mention the colors: a rainbow of shades that are drawn straight from the polo shirt selection at Abercrombie & Fitch. What’s most intriguing about these McManses, however, is their voluminous scale, intended to make the average late model Denali look downright puny. The best part? All of the structures shown here are actually simple beach “cottages.”

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Garish: Narchitecture and its offspring.

Good gaudy: Narchitecture reinterpreted. Love the gold. (Photos courtesy of John Jackson.) 

Just in case anyone is wondering what makes the staff here at feel good in funny places: it’s knowing that every once in a while we inspire a reader to use their powers for evil instead of good. Such is the case of John Jackson, an MFA student in Exhibition, Design and Museum Planning at the University of the Arts in Philly. For a recent assignment, Jackson had to choose a word and use it as inspiration for a model. Being a wise man, Jackson chose “narchitecture,” a term coined by my super wicked collaborator, San Suzie, and employed in a post that went up as part of our incisive coverage of Miami during last year’s Art Basel. Narchitecture, as long-time readers will know, is architecture that looks as if it was commissioned by drug traffickers.

Jackson reports that the goal of his assignment “was to make a representation of the word in visual form. It was meant to be a purely affective experience — no text panels or anything else didactic.” So, for his project, titled Garish, he created a set that employed “marble” columns made out of wooden dowels and foam core, custom-made fleur-de-lys wallpaper, and “carpet” fashioned from a thrift-store jacket. Symbols of garishness were also liberally applied, including portraits of Li’l Kim, Tammy Faye Bakker and Nancy Reagan in a power suit. In keeping with the tenets of narchitecture, it is spectacularly tasteless. Though if Jackson had had several more lifetimes to produce the thing, I woulda suggested several hundred Italianate balustrades. You can never go wrong with those. Either way, this imaginative project gets a gold star from us!

In sort-of related news: I am pleased to report that someone (not us) posted “narchitecture” as a word on Urban Dictionary. Please feel free to click through and give the entry a “thumbs up.” We won’t rest until Merriam-Webster comes calling.

More images from Jackson’s project after the jump.

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Narchitecture: Real deal edition.

Casa de Arturo Durazo
El Partenón: This splendid piece of hillside real estate once belonged to a former Mexico City Police Chief and alleged drug trafficker. (Image courtesy of Alain García Gómez.)

Several years ago, my friend Bruce went birding in the hillsides above Zihuatanejo, on Mexico’s southern coast, and ended up stumbling into an abandoned narco-mansion. It had belonged to Arturo “El Negro” Durazo, a former Mexico City police chief (during the regime of López Portillo in the ‘70s) who was well known for maintaining a high-profile, high-rent lifestyle he couldn’t possibly afford on a government salary. The design of his expansive Zihuatanejo mansion (there were others) was inspired by the Greek Parthenon and contained, among other things, murals of battles, a full-blown discotheque (allegedly a replica of Studio 54), lots of jacuzzis and bedrooms with mirrored ceilings.

In the early 80s, Durazo ended up getting chased out of his job and was eventually arrested in Puerto Rico. He was charged, in Mexico, with smuggling, illegal arms possession and tax evasion, and was eventually convicted on some of the charges (but it is unclear from the clips I’ve read, which ones). For all the flagrant corruption, Durazo only ended up doing half a dozen years of jail time. During this time, however, his Zihuatanejo mansion was taken over by the municipality, and when Bruce found it, it lay unused and abandoned.

Bruce, unfortunately, wasn’t carrying a camera when he found the place, so there was no visual evidence of his adventure. With a bit of careful Googling, however, we managed to find an incredible blog post by Alain García Gómez on El Partenón, as the house is known, that contains an informative report, as well as a bunch of photos.

Bruce was excited to find the photos because he would finally have hard evidence that this place existed. I was thrilled because the pictures of this real-live narco-mansion proved that when a friend and I cooked up our theories of narchitecture last year, we were spot on in just about every description: Durazo’s house is massive. It has an abundance of Classical columns and gobs of Roman-style statuary. And in its day, I imagine that it also featured plenty of lithe young women in thong bikinis.

Further reading:
El Universal.
El Mundo.

Posted by C-Monster.