Interview: Arquitectonica

27 May 2014

How is Arquitectonica pushing the boundaries of civic building design?

Architecture in the civic sector has a duty to engage with the public and push the boundaries of design within the built environment. As we continue the hunt for the 2014 WAN Civic Buildings Award winner, we look to experts in the field for insight into the design process in this popular sector.

This week we speak to Bernado Fort-Brescia, Founding Principal at Miami-based Arquitectonica about one of the firm’s most recent civic schemes: South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.

How has the design of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center pushed the boundaries of civic building design?

The building uses the facade as a canvas, not just an enclosure or a form maker. The giant brushstrokes, sometimes monochromatic, sometimes colorful, act as urban scale murals.

The transparent multi-story lobby engages the surroundings. It is a giant vitrine that exhibits the public the full stretch public space within. Its monumental interior wall illuminates like a live billboard as patrons traverse and climb on the way to their seats.

What design techniques and/or material choices has Arquitectonica employed to enhance the user experience?

The building is designed to accept the intended de-suburbanization and re-urbanization of this area. It is intended to receive neighbors, create a broad view of the new sidewalks, and connect to the linear canal side park. Art studios, dance and music rehearsal halls and community outreach classrooms open to the promenade that leads to the park.

How has colour been incorporated into the design of the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and what role do you believe colour plays in the wider field of civic building design?

The pre-function space is made of colored honeycomb recycled PETE. The interior of the hall is made of perforated wood panels backed by acoustical material. The wood is stained to create the pattern in shades of red. The curtain is turned into an abstract geometric design that follows the traditional red tonalities of grand theatres. The blue lighting creates on the glass exaggerates the nighttime show message.

The reds remind of old grand theaters. It talks to a narrative. The building opens up like a curtain call. Color is used to emphasize the traditions of theater spaces. Graphic design permeates all spaces from facade to lobby to seat covers to the curtain.

Arquitectonica has designed buildings in 60 countries. What has been your favourite region to work in and why?

We like working in Miami because this is were we grew up professionally. This is our architectural hometown. Everyone loves to do work in their hometown. Laurinda (Founding Principal) grew up in Miami. I am torn because I grew up in Peru and love to work there. It is only natural.

What would be your advice to young and emerging architects?

Don't think about the future. Think only about the present. That's the only thing you control. Focus on what you are doing now. And dream.

When did you decide to become an architect? Whose work has inspired you in forming your own philosophy and creative style?

Laurinda grew up in Miami, the only major American city rooted in modernity. I grew up on a South American farm dreaming of new cities. I was growing up at the same time as Niemeyer was creating Brasilia. So modernity is in our blood. 

For more information on how to enter your projects for the WAN Civic Buildings Award, visit the WAN AWARDS website or email Katy Russell.

Interview by Katy Russell, WAN AWARDS Co-ordinator

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