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The south facade of the Perez Art Museum Miami The east facade protected from the extremes of weather by a concrete and wooden canopy The oversized stairwell that doubles as an auditorium The vista from one of the recessed windows Inside one of PAMM's four gallery spaces
12 Jun 2014

Perez Art Museum Miami by Herzog & de Meuron

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  • Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
  • Client: Perez Art Museum Miami
  • Location: Miami
  • Cost: £220m
  • Duration: December 2010 - December 2013
  • Floor Space: 18,580sq m

The Perez Art Museum Miami by Herzog & de Meuron takes its cues from the city's extreme weather and its unique setting.

Herzog & de Meuron's architectural concept for the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), which opened officially at the end of last year, PAMM was born of its immediate environment.

Miami is known for its art deco buildings that line the seafront, but Herzog & de Meuron felt the style failed to establish a connection between the inside and outside space and the building's external appearance with its internal design. Instead, the practice took its design cues from the city's extreme weather.

"The greatest thing... that makes Miami so extraordinary is its amazing climate, lush vegetation and cultural diversity," says Jacques Herzog, co-founder of Herzog & de Meuron. "How can these assets be fully exploited and translated into architecture? That's the way we tried to go with our design for the new art museum in Miami."

Accordingly, the concrete exterior of the deceptively fragile-looking building is chiselled in places and polished in others. It sits between a concrete platform and canopy, which extend out to create a public space with steps that lead down to the waterfront of the Biscayne Bay.

The wood and concrete canopy is hung with thick ropes of native vegetation, and together they shade the building from the scorching sun, while the thermal mass of the concrete helps moderate the heat. The platform is raised up on stilts, which keeps it safe from surging storm levels and creates space for an open-air car park.

Expansive windows afford spectacular views across Museum Park, the bay and the city, and the customised concrete mullion system holds the largest ever used hurricane-proof glass in Florida. The largest panels of glass are 5.3m by 2m, weigh 1134kg and can withstand winds of up to 150mph. The interior takes on the main building materials, using concrete and wood in different combinations.

"We wanted the building to be rough, to feel real, inside and out – and not invent another interesting cladding," says senior partner Christine Bindswanger.

"Concrete as a structure and a finish has rarely been done around here, and for a museum even less so – where it has to be precise and pristine."

Herzog & de Meuron worked with the museum staff to develop a layout that fitted with the museum's growing collection of contemporary art, and provided ample space for temporary exhibitions.

The gallery spaces flow together in a sequence of rooms, and the large timber staircase, which connects the two floors, doubles as an auditorium. Sound-insulating curtains can be configured to create space for lectures, film screenings, concerts and performances. The idea was to avoid isolating these events, and leaving a space that remained unused most of the time.

"The spaces at PAMM and their materiality are very specific," says Binswanger. "They can be considered an antithesis to the flexible, abstract white cubes that have been a dogma in most recently built art spaces."


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