Under Tropical Light: The Parking Garages of Miami Beach
Prose by Claudia Kousoulas + Photography by George Kousoulas
Any skyscraper bulges in the looseness of morning but in twilight becomes unutterably crisp — E. E. Cummings
Parking garages are among the most unloved and unobserved structures in architecture. They keep our environments functioning and our lives moving, but we don’t expect them to deliver joy or enlightenment. In Miami Beach, however, architects have used light to highlight space, surface, and movement in these utilitarian spaces, creating the very best kind of architecture—functional and ennobling.
Light and color are distinctive elements of the Miami Beach image, generated from nature and interpreted by artists and popular culture. As Steen Eiler Rasmussen notes in Experiencing Architecture, “We use the colors we are accustomed to see around us.” In Miami, the changeable blue ocean really does reflect a rosy pink while greens move from deep clear emerald tones to silvery grays. The tropical light can overtake and absorb even the most garish colors. Throughout the day, the sky itself changes from pearly morning to punishing midday to the beautiful bruises of sunset.
In these garages, for which the city has become known, architects have engaged with the very form and function of the structures, wielding light as a building material—manipulating its color and character to define space and create an experience that responds to the beach’s unique strata. There is hardly a more dead mass than a parking garage, but animated under tropical light, mass becomes driven energy.
George Kousoulas is a principal at BLOCK53, where he brings his experience to the development of high-quality projects in prime urban locations. The recently completed Lincoln East, a BLOCK53 project, was featured in The Wall Street Journal as one of Miami Beach’s pace-setting parking and retail projects. Other projects include new properties for Vintro Hotels and condominiums on Key Biscayne.