Designated Miami Landmark: October 5, 2009
The Miami headquarters was the latest in a series of architectural projects that Pepin Bosch, then president of the Bacardi Company, had undertaken to redefine Bacardi’s public image. When he took charge of the company in 1944, Bacardi rum was identified completely with Cuba.
Bosch used modern architecture to project a contemporary corporate image. For his new image, Bosch hired Mies van der Rohe to create, through architecture, the message of Bacardi. “If Mies van der Rohe’s architecture could help Seagram shed all reference to the evils of whiskey and to rise a corporation, then perhaps it could also help Bacardi, Castro (who Bosch and the Company supported), and Cuba to enter the international market place”( Shulman 181). None of the international headquarters created by Mies included a bar and none had portrayed any association with Cuban or Latin culture. The future of the company needed a clean image disassociated with its past, which was accomplished through the abstract nature of modern architecture.
When Castro and the Cuban government took control of Bacardi in 1960, Bosh and Bacardi left Cuba (stopping the construction of Mies’s building in Santiago). At this time, the company bought property in Miami.
Enrique Gutierrez, the architect of the Barcardi Headquarters in Miami, was a protégé of Mies va der Rohe who had served as Mies’ local associate on a Bacardi office building planned for Santiago de Cuba in 1959, was able to synthesis Miesian design concepts with his Latin heritage. Choosing to clad the building with bold artwork was meant to address the city of Miami. Brennand, a Brazilian artist, and his artwork were part of Bacardi’s plan to speak not of a nostalgic past but an international future, identifying Bacardi with a larger Latin America at the moment when the company let go of Cuba for good. Through the use of architecture and artwork, Bosch presented Bacardi as both a pan-Latin and global corporation that could rise above politics, sending a message that Miami’s Cubans should do the same (Shulman 182).
The concrete reinforced building uses clean, corporate lines in its design but also works to make artwork part of the architectural expression by having two surfaces clad in white and blue mosaic tiles. The building uses influences from the International Style with bold structural expression by using four large pillars supporting a truss that supports the floor plates with suspended cables. The goal was to create the illusion of a large floating tower, placed within an elevated plaza to enhance this concept.
The complex consists of three elements: the 1963 Tower, the 1974 square annex, and the plaza. The two buildings only take up about 20% of the total site and are located only a few blocks away from downtown Miami. The complex looks outward to the city to engage Miami by using bold and visible artwork as well as overt structural expression.
The structure of the eight story tower consists of four large marble piers, measuring 13” x 14” and stretching 118’-0” tall. These piers support a 81’ long and 41’ wide truss. The floor plates are suspended from the truss, allowing for slight movement in case of an earthquake, which is a danger in Puerto Rico, where Gutierrez practiced prior to Miami, but is not a threat in Miami. The suspended floor plates also allow for maximum floor space since the structure requires no interior columns.
To create the illusion of a floating building, Gutierrez made the ground floor of the tower recessed and transparent. The plaza was also raised to eye level from the street in order eliminate the sight of receding parallel lines to make the building appear as though it were floating.
The concrete is on the tower is clad with two huge ‘azulejos’, or ceramic tile murals in blue and white. The other surfaces include white-veined marble tiles and exposed concrete. Exposing the concrete is meant to show the effects of 1” x 4” tongue-and-groove planks used for the form to give vertical striped effect. The west and east facades are constructed of thermopane, smoke-tinted glass with anodized aluminum mullions.
The garage under the tower used similar specifications to a swimming pool to keep the subterranean level dry even though it sits within the high water table.
The Bacardi building was one of the first that spoke to recently arrived Cuban immigrants in Miami and aimed to help influence the identity of this community through a modern expression. Gutierrez’s design references Mies’, yet he transformed calm abstract surfaces into a canvas for Brennand’s art. “In the transformation, the hegemony of International Style was lost, but the voice of Pepin Bosch, in part representing Miami’s Cuban community, emerged” (Shulman 182).
The Bacardi Headquarters represents a unique interpretation of American modernism through a Latin American lens. Miesian in form and Latin American in style, the Bacardi Headquarters is an architectural contradiction. However, it accurately projected the image of the Bacardi Corporation in the United States, and made a, “pointed statement of identity that conveyed the corporate strength and political will in the tumultuous early years of Fidel Castro’s rule” (Shulman 179).
Modernism in Miami always accounted for the temperate climate, but the Bacardi building was able to address the local culture by ironically using a style that turned its back on concept of local influence.
SHULMAN, Allan T., ed. Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami, FLla. : Bass Museum of Art. KUNKEL, Joe. “A Proud Symbol of Latin Modernism.” Jetsetmodern.com. Web. 5 Feb. 2010. NASH, Eric P. and Randall C. Robinson. MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2004. MARTI, Melissa. "Iconic Bacardi headquarters gets historic accolade." PODER360 4 Oct. 2009: 1. Web. 5 Feb 2010. MADIA, Enrique. "Bacardi buildings in Miami." Archivos de arquitectura antillana. No. 32 (January 2009): 296-297.