Miami-based architect firm, Arquitectonica, started out with ‘instant fame’ known as the firm who created the flamboyant and glamorous style of Miami. Colorful houses, such as the most photographed house in Miami, a pink house created for one of the co-founder’s mother in 1977, now a signatory style of 1980’s downtown Miami. Arquitectonica have since evolved as an internationally acclaimed company producing magnificent and dramatic structures.
The firm was founded by husband and wife team, Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear and three other talented friends as an ‘experimental studio’ some thirty years ago. They have since
forged a signature on expressive ‘high tech’ modernism, such as the legendary Atlantis Condominium which became famous in it’s own right when featured in the opening credits of popular TV series, “Miami Vice”. The glass façade and pastel color scheme of this 20-storey building, with showcase palm court cut out of the middle, is now an icon to the Miami skyline.
Fort-Brescia and Spear have gone on to create an array of landmark buildings across the Globe including Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Banco de Crédito headquarters in Lima (Peru), The Podium, Manila, (Philippines) and The Infinity Towers I & II, San Francisco.
Fort-Brescia earned a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University and a M.A. in Architecture from Harvard University and is the leading force of the firm now boasting some 400 employees and offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila, Lima, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paulo. His wife, Laurinda attended both Brown and Columbia Universities, achieving a Master of Architecture in 1975.
Together, they have pursued an unconventional modernism, which is often abstract, sometimes playful and mostly dramatic. It is also said that Arquitectonica is superbly audacious. They experiment with shape, color and even graphics, yet stay well grounded by the client’s wishes of functionalism and the effect of the chosen site.
“A building looks a certain way and holds its place in the city and the skyline a certain way. It relates to its surroundings. It calls people to look at it,” says Laurinda. This thought is echoed by Bernado who commented on the remarkable roof of their Herald Tribune building, “I wanted the roof to be a fifth façade so people in nearby tall buildings would have something interesting to look at, rather than an ugly flat roof”.
In 2007, Arquitectonica released plans for an immense tower block
for 375 East Wacker Drive, Lakeshore East, Chicago. The design includes a glass façade with limestone accents lit with LEDs,
which will change colors with the seasons. It also features a dramatic cut-out of 20 floors, creating a “hole in the building” akin to Paris’ Grande Arche and Torre Arcos in Mexico City. University of Miami architecture professor, Jean-Francois Lejeune, notes that Arquitectonica has a special ability to “give the building an identity”. This latest building certainly protrudes a huge personality.
The architectural accomplishments of Arquitectonica are diverse and the styles range from the renowned “tropical modernist” Miami designs, to futuristic glass and light infused structures,
such as the Wistin Hotel, Times Square, NY. The glass skin of the Wistin Hotel is accented with stripes of contrasting colors that evoke the movement of traffic on uptown and cross-town streets. A shallow arc, extending the full height of the tower, splits the southern façade in two. Blue glass predominates on the western half, with pink-orange on the east.
The diversity of design stems from the variety of commissions the firm accepts; office buildings, government buildings, transportation facilities, high-rise condominiums, sports and entertainment venues and malls.
In addition to the incredible portfolio of buildings, Laurinda Spear has expanded to interior design of which The Wistin Hotel is a fine example.
Laurinda states, “I have exceptional interest in making interiors an integral part of architecture.” Explaining that Arquitectonica’s buildings make you want to go ‘inside’, and she allows the visitor to continue the experience through to the interior.
She has also produced an array of products including personal accessories, watches and clocks, modern furniture, house wares and textiles. It is worth noting her soft and clean modern furniture design, such as Nido; a collection created for Appoggi. Whilst modern in design, Laurinda keeps a soft, curved aspect
that is welcoming, and begging to be curled up on. Her ‘Ripple’ bench is both sculptural and playful. The ‘ripples’ can either by horizontal (creating ‘dips’ to sit in), or with a flat top so the ‘ripples’ are vertical. She is also highly acclaimed for a line of laminates for Formica, textiles for HBF Textiles, hardware for Valli & Valli, watches and clocks for Projects, a line of wall coverings for Wolf-Gordon and architectural glass products for Skyline. Her design work adeptly translates architectural elements to objects.
Arquitectonica has earned awards and accolades internationally. Most notable among those honors are the AIA Test of Time Award, Excellence in Architecture and modern design Progressive Architecture Award.
Bernado and Laurinda continue to put forward a sassy brand of smart postmodernism that blends functionalism with an emphasis on color and energetic imagery.
In addition to teaching and lecturing at the Harvard School of Urban Design, Bernado has lectured around the world.
Laurinda is a recipient of the coveted Rome Prize in Architecture and has also lectured around the world. Their work has been exhibited in many prominent galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe.
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