Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Colonnade of Coral Gables

While driving around Coral Gables I stopped by the Colonnade Building along the 'miracle mile', a half a mile stretch of road that is the shopping strip of the planned community.Coral Gables was a planned community developed by George Merrick in the 1920s, spawned out of the City Beautiful movement. The public buildings in Merrick's scheme were all done in a magnificent Beaux Arts style which incorporated a lot of Floridian motifs.Merrick hired architect Phineas Paist, who was involved with the local estate Vizcaya, to complete his own fantasy town. Below is a photograph of a lost painting of Paist, allegedly painted by Sargent, who was a friend of his.The Colonnade, completed in November of 1926, was originally designed as Merrick's sales center, and as such, was the centerpiece of the shopping area. It certainly stands out!Since the area experienced a real estate bust shortly after it was built, the building has undergone a series of purposes: a movie studio, pilot training facility, bank and even a parachute factory!The building is now a part of the Colonnade hotel, operated by Westin. You can see the hulk of the hotel behind the original building. The main foyer operates as a ballroom and contains the original Spanish fountain and plaster detailing that you'll see in a bit.The exterior doors house a number of restaurants with the shaded loggias providing outdoor seating.As with most good architecture, you know where you are, despite a classical design. The pink stucco and turquoise window frames with beachside motifs couldn't be anywhere but Florida!The interior foyer, as I said, now operates as a ballroom for the hotel; imagine having your wedding here! It reminded me vaguely of Rome's Pantheon, don't you think?The Oculus is even painted with clouds to resemble the open one at the Pantheon. Here it is more practically enclosed.Now, notice those pretty corinthian columns -what is that in the center?The capitals have birds; Pelicans and Parrots!I instantly fell in love with this room -those birds!The niches at the ground level (empty for some reason?) continue the seaside motif with shells. Ignore those hideous 1980's marble floors. I'm not sure what the original floors were, tile or perhaps a more appropriate terrazzo (marble chips in cement)? At the rear of this atrium begins the hotel with this 2 story entry hallway. I think it melds in pretty well with the original building. This area was originally an alley between buildings I think, based on original photos I found online.
After a maddening day driving around Coral Gables looking for Merrick's buildings (harder than I thought!) and an unexpected and stressful phonecall, I needed a drink. I grabbed a delightful lunch at Le Boudoir in the Colonnade - one of the best Salad Nicoise I've had in a long time, I would highly recommend this cafe!

12 comments:

The Devoted Classicist said...

Although the general public tends to associate shiny marble floors with cleanliness, I had the same opinion as you and had wondered if the floors would be improved with a honed finish. Next time for lunch, you might try the FABULOUS casual Cuban restaurant Latin America, also on the Miracle Mile. Although the decor is o.k., it is the food -- and people -- that are the treats.

Adrian Salgado said...

Nice write-up. It's a shame that this building is so under appreciated in these parts.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Devoted, I wish I had that recommendation before I went! I'll have to keep that in mind if I visit again. I think a honed finish would definitely help (or just rip it up).

Adrian -thank you! I found shockingly little information about it anywhere, despite its significance!

Allison said...

The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables is also another must-see. Old Florida at its best - it is breathtaking.

quintessence said...

Some really beautiful aspects to this building, including the fun birds within the corinthian decorations. And agree with both you and TDC that it's really a shame about the floors - cheapen the whole effect!

Mark D. Ruffner said...

It does look as though Paist was inspired by the Pantheon, doesn't it? I always enjoy capitals that incorporate something appropriate to the surroundings - the parrots and pelicans are a delightful detail.

The Down East Dilettante said...

So many things I like in this post that I can't begin to comment on everything (well, I could, but have to leave space for others to comment too :-)

The pelican capitals (and so in accord with you about the marble floors

love the cloud painted oculus. Haven't been to Coral Gables in years. Obviously time to rectify that.

Jane K. Schott said...

Next time you are prowling around let me know. I have a designer friend who is doing an amazing house right next door to Viscaya.

By the way, what type of camera do you use? These are amazing photos.

Woody said...

That rotunda is really beautiful, and that entrance is stunning. The 1920s produced some of the most beautiful buildings in every city. Regardless of where it is, if it's a '20s building, you have a winner. Do you think in a hundred years people will look back to the '00s and admire the pre-Recession architecture the way we look back to the '20s now?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Woody -i've thought about this so many times. I think many 'disposable' buildings were built in the 1920s -but only some of the greats survive. I agree with you that just about all of my favorites come from this time period!
I think today we have a number of buildings being built that will survive 100 years, but their number is diminishing because of the publics opinion that great works of art and architecture aren't worthwhile. Public buildings anymore are disposable, rather than the works of art we used to see in the past. A sad state of affairs! Most of the great buildings done anymore are private.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Jane, i'll be done by next winter -surely! I just have a plain canon powershot. My secret is to take 50 photos to get a few good ones! LOL

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Allison -i made it to the biltmore -you'll see more on that next week!