Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vizcaya: the entry

One of the biggest surprises Heather and I had on our trip to Florida and Nassau was definitely Vizcaya in Miami, the James Deering estate; we were blown away!The designing and building of Vizcaya was a labor of love for Deering, which he did with the aide of Elsie de Wolfe's protege, Paul Chalfin. Chalfin was the driving force and visionary behind the entire estate, and indeed, it was his one masterpiece which he worked on for decades.Chalfin envisioned the estate as an Italian Villa due in part to the fad with Italian design from Edith Whartons Italian Villas and Gardens which was ideal for the climate. In fact, he convinced Deering to abandon his plans for a more conventional Spanish styled villa.I'll start with the gardens, as I promised Sandra, and hopefully they'll begin to give you a peek into this magnificent estate.Construction was started in 1914 on the house with completion in 1917 but the gardens weren't complete until shortly before Deering's death in 1925. Sadly, much of this work was ruined in the major hurricane of 1926 but Deering's family, who had inherited the estate, hired Chalfin to patch up the damage.Chalfin opened a studio in NYC with a staff of architects, craftsmen and drafters, funded by Deering, which designed many aspects of Vizcaya (and other projects he took on) such as these lanterns above which dot the estate. The colors blue and yellow become a theme throughout the estate and hark to a Venetian scheme.The photos above (and the main estate plan) show the entry from the northwest (bottom left of the map) through an original hammock (hardwood forest) which was important to Deering to preserve. This forest now acts as a barrier from the surrounding neighborhood and harbors a lot of wild life, like the little lizard seen on the pergola above!The first glimpse of the main house, above, is after reaching a statue-filled, round entry court (entrance seen in the 3rd photo above) and then down a drive flanked by walkways with fountains leading you down to the house. This trickling water, neccesary to every Italian styled garden, also connects you to Biscayne Bay on the other side of the house. Magnificent statues of the local coral limestone are abundant.
Above you see the arrival court from the house, looking back up the drive towards the entry court. In Deering's time, this green patch surrounding the pond was heavily planted, as was much of the estate.
This really is the back of the main house, as it fronts both Biscayne Bay and the main southern gardens (which we'll explore in my next post).
Notice the continuation of blue and yellow in the curtains and awnings. Originally, the center of the house was completely open and these curtains provided shade and protection from the elements. It was glassed in for preservation in the 1980s.The stucco has a pink tint with the local grey stone providing an accent. I love the texture of this stone and the little pockets provide places for greenery to sprout; Probably not the best for preservation but great for effect.The entry is flanked by more urns and statuary and these great copper sconces; the green is striking against the pink hued stucco.While the design remains Italian, lots of the details and the name itself remain true to Deering's original Spanish intentions; Spanish galleons are seen throughout, like this one below at the entrance.The court is flanked by 2 triumphal arches, which make a great backdrop for photoshoots!The stucco of the surrounding court walls is a coral pink color, much stronger than the house's light pink hue.The Beaux-arts influence is evident by the site lines, everything aligns! Below we are looking through the arches and central court.Chalfin designed the house to appear as it had evolved and changed over generations of an Italian family. The house was to seem to have been added onto as time progressed and these baroque arches would have been 'later additions' style wise.Chalfin however, was not the architect of the house but more of an owner's representative and design director. He worked closely with Deering on the design, even traveling with him throughout Europe scoping out precedents and, much like at San Simeon, buying architectural 'salvage' to use and copy in the estate.The architect they chose was Francis Burrall Hoffman, who was unceremoniously dismissed after the bulk of the main house was complete, with Landscape architect Diego Suarez (who had studied in Italy) designing the gardens (even if Chalfin later took credit!). To the side of the house are the servants entrance and maintenance sheds, which this time are in a beautiful yellow stucco. These are the entry for visitors today into the main gardens which we'll see soon, I promise!As a non sequitur, I loved seeing a true 'Florida door' (louvered wood door) in use in Florida as my old apartment here in DC used them as entry to our apartments!

16 comments:

Slim Paley said...

Oh! Vizcaya!! I love it so! I've been there twice, took the entire busman's tour both times and completely lost myself in another world. That interior courtyard with the balconies running along outside the bedrooms...divine architecture. I loved that both times I visited Coral Gables it was hot, steamy, and totally in keeping with the lush, tropical vegetation. I couldn't get enough of it. Would jump at the chance to visit a third time- thanks for the memory stir

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Slim, I had never been but I was BLOWN AWAY! Seriously one of the best house museums i've ever visited. It wasn't hot and steamy (and as you can tell was mostly cloudy) but at 80 degrees and no humidity- i'll take it.

The Down East Dilettante said...

It just doesn't get better, does it? I knew you'd love it. And all the wonderful photos you took make it live.

sigh...just imagine it when all around was jungle, with this great house at the edge of the bay...

The Devoted Classicist said...

Vizcaya is my favorite house museum and I am unapologetic in saying that it has influenced a segment of my work. The excitement really begins to build from the public road, doesn't it? I am sure there is much more to the story of the very talented Mr Chalfin and his visionary-client relationship with Deering. Perhaps it will all be revealed at some point. As always, your great detail photos are really appreciated.

Divine Theatre said...

I don't know what I like best, your photographs or the way you write the stories surrounding them?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Just wait till you see the interior, DED! I was actually impressed by the jungle that remains!
Devoted - I've heard rumors that Chalfin was Deering's lover (as Chalfin was a flaming queen, according to Witold Rybczynski in his marvelous book) and Deering was a 'devoted bachelor'. However, as Rzbczynski states in his book, perhaps all was as it seems and a bachelor is simply that! I would love to know more.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

2 unmarried men galavanting around europe checking out the sites does seem a bit...provocative?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Divine, i was actually disappointed with this first set of photos but they get better! Thanks so much though; The place was so inspiring I just hope I can live up to it!

MK said...

It is simply amazing. Thank you for sharing this. Your photography skills are excellent. Do you use any filters?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

MK, thanks! I didn't even think these turned out so great! I bump up the contrast 10% is all -I think they read better online that way.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I saw Vizcaya before I had a digital camera, so your photos are bringing back wonderful memories, and details I'd forgotten. Can't wait for the interior shots!

Terry said...

Thanks so much. I've only had the water view. The wives toured it while we sailed off the south side of Rickenbacker Causeway. Although we never got very close on the water it was a vision from some other place and time.

La Petite Gallery said...

Appreciate all the work you did on post. Brings beautiful memories of days gone by. Thanks Yvonne
It's been a while for this visit

sandrajonas.com said...

Stefan, I cannot tell you how I am enjoying this series on Vizcaya. In my opinion it is one of the best gardens in America.

It is always a delight to 'see' these landmarks through your eyes.
xsxs

Robert Webber said...

Fab!
Always wondered what it was like.
Looked on google, but you just see the same old photos!
Magic
R

Cote de Texas said...

this has to be your best series ever. i feel like i actually saw it!!! it must have taken your hours, days? amazing!!!! my daughter is going to school in Boca Raton and I might have to sneak down there one weekend. it looks unreal.