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South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center by Arquitectonica

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Cutler Bay, South Miami. The brand-new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center rises out of the flat Florida landscape in a dynamic crescendo of geometric forms that pierce the sky. Its presence offers a penetrating counterpoint to the dull and monotonous Southland Mall and parking lot it faces. Designed by Arquitectonica, the famed Miami-based architectural firm led by Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia, the Cultural Arts Center delights in movement and flow, circulation and performance, geometry and color.

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center by Arquitectonica Image courtesy of Robin Hill ©

The design concept is inspired by motion, and the Cultural Arts Center's two complementary buildings allow patrons to freely circulate. The flow of movement begins with ramps skirting the exterior of the main concert hall and continues inside where a brushed aluminum grand staircase delivers each patron to the orchestra and balcony levels above. The drama of entry is sweetly enhanced by the expertly interwoven public art installation by highly regarded artist Robert Chambers. "Light field" uses digital technology and LED lighting to create a field of ever-changing colors that adds an electric aesthetic to the already dynamic architecture. What's more, Robert Chambers also designed two large-scale marble sculptures that are based on Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion and the geometric formulas of prehistoric tools and they echo Arquitectonica's entry feature to further add to the congruence of public art and architecture.

Exterior view of the South Miami Dade Cultural Center by by Arquitectonica

At 71,504 sq. ft., the Main Building dominates the cultural campus (and houses a 966-seat state-of-the-art theater); but its dominance is supported, indeed enhanced, by the proximity of its smaller sibling, the 7,538 sq. ft. Activities Building, which houses classrooms, rehearsal space, and room for smaller-scale performances. Between the two buildings an outdoor promenade, bisected with newly planted bamboo, leads gently to a sloping lawn at the rear of the complex, where outdoor concerts can be held. The rear of the property is defined by the Black Creek canal, and from this vantage point the center takes on an entirely different form of elongated rectangles perched on top of one another, whilst the smooth, undulating landscape stretches to the canal. Surrounded by nature at the back and urban vacancy at the front, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center gives the effect of an island of artistic defiance standing against the forces of both, whilst the landscape architecture of Curtis & Rogers Design Studio and Jessica Jerez provide the interstitial backdrop that brings the whole composition neatly together.

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Auditorium by Arquitectonica Interior of the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center by Arquitectonica

The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center grew out of an idea to reinvigorate the area after Hurricane Andrew devastated much of this part of South Miami-Dade County in 1992. As the building now stands it is conspicuously alone, awaiting further development of a new downtown, but it stands as a bright beacon of optimism for a region that is so under served by facilities devoted to arts and culture.

A special thanks to Robin Hill for contributing the content found in this article.
Be sure to stop by to see more of his photography.

Find out more about the architecture of Miami

Robin Hill

Originally from Nottingham, England, Robin Hill is an architectural photographer based in Miami Beach. Over the last 25 years his photography has been published in many of the world's leading design publications including Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Garden Design and Vanity Fair. His photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright's Florida Southern College were included in the Guggenheim's 2009 exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright: From within outward and his photographs appear in numerous books including MiMo: Miami Modern revealed (Chronicle 2004), Miami Architecture Guide (University Press Florida) and The Glass House (Rizzoli 2011). Much of his work is dedicated to Historic Preservation and his photographs have helped in Miami/Miami Beach to create the North Shore and Normandy Isles districts, which are in the National Register of Historic Places, and the North Beach Resort and the Morris Lapidus/Mid 20th Century districts, both designated historic on the local level.


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