polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Door in/to Cities: Miami

by Hector Fernando Burga

An urban exploration of Miami is an encounter with contradiction, paradox and re-invention. The following selection of entrances from doorways to public spaces and monuments, challengenotions of authenticity, originality and authorship.

The first picture on the left is the entrance of the old central train station in the municipality Opa Locka. Built in the 1920’s, the station is no longer in use, but like many public buildings in Opa Locka, its display of Moorish/Arabesque architecture signals the aesthetic branding that characterized much of the speculative development in the boom and bust of 1930’s Miami. Miami's weather, combined with vast limestone flatlands offered a tabula rasa where developers could build theme-oriented communities. Utopias of progress became utopias of fantasy, each with their own particular theme. In similar fashion, the Douglas Road Entrance a.k.a "La Puerta del Sol", alludes to the Mediterranean style – a blurred collage of Italianate and Spanish revival in the City of Coral Gables. Now closed and sealing Coral Gables from the rest of Miami, this entrance stands as a wall, a hyper controlled plaza serving public institutions.

Fast forward to the future, where the mimicry of tradition is replaced by primal modernism. Built in the late 1980’s, the entrance to Miami’s Metro Mover, is also a magnet. The "Red M" conjures Miami’s global exposure and attraction during the 1980’s. This is Miami’s tropical modernism, essential and bare, primitive in its scale and formal simplicity. The entrance is a piece of iconography, sculpture-like yet ultimately contextual and reflective of Miami’s imagination of progress.

This selection closes with a note of irony; Kitsch exploding with meaning. The entrance to the Municipality of Hialeah on the right is the mimicry of mimicry. The design came out of a Charrete promoting the City of Hialeah a.k.a “the City of Progress”. The entrance is out of proportion, scale and its details are caricaturesque. It isn’t even an entrance. Yet it represents the desire of Hiealeah residents, politicians and planners to claim the inauthentic in order to craft a vision of progress.

Miami is a chimera, each head a mouth clamoring the complexity of urbanism. 

Credits: Photos by Hector Fernando Burga.