Star architects’ dazzling condos are snagging big bucks. But so are towers by Miami’s best

The property is spectacular, 300 feet of oceanfront in Sunny Isles Beach. But when luxury condo developer Edgardo Defortuna acquired it, Sunny Isles was awash in deluxe new towers. Defortuna needed something special to outshine the competition.

He needed a star architect.

And so Defortuna found himself one day in Basel, Switzerland, at the studio of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the brainy architects famous for their austere virtuosity and, in Miami, for their singular designs for the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the origami-like parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road. Defortuna was not sure what to expect, but their pitch bowled him over.

The architects presented a scale model of a conceptual design that pushed some inventive notions: They proposed tapering the tower and planting it an angle to the shoreline, so that the building would not block the afternoon sun on the beach. And they wanted to bury all parking underground, a costly and mostly untested idea so close to the shore. Instead of blocking beach views with a garage podium, the architects wanted the lobby to open up directly at ground level to the pool and the sea just beyond, a romantic throwback to the classic Miami Beach hotels of the mid-20th century.

Defortuna thus became one of the first Miami condo developers to turn to that rarefied rank of international architects whose fame sometimes approaches celebrity — but whose fees and high-flying creative impulses inflate construction budgets — to tackle that most prosaic of Miami housing types, the high-rise condo.

Defortuna’s Jade Signature, now under construction, is just one of around a dozen ultra-luxury condo projects in Miami-Dade that bear the imprimatur of a celebrated architect. Other developers have turned to such notables as the late Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel, all of them winners of the Pritzker Prize, the profession’s top honor.

But along with the big names come big egos, bigger construction price tags and, sometimes, big headaches, leading some skeptics to wonder: Are the “starchitects” worth their salt? Does architectural fame really help sell an extravagantly priced new condo?


By Andres Viglucci, Miami Herald

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