Rodriguez and Quiroga architects: Giving a Historic Tower New Life
Among the major cities in the eastern US, Miami is a more recent one, having been built up mostly throughout the last century. However, throughout its short urban lifespan, some of the Miami’s buildings have acquired a great deal of historical significance. And one early-twentieth-century building in particular has recently found headlines once again, thanks in part to Florida-based architecture firm Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered.
The Freedom Tower, designed by George A. Fuller, Schultze & Weaver, was built in 1925 during a real estate boom as the Miami Daily News offices, but lay vacant after the paper collapsed in the 1950s. From 1962 to 1974, it was repurposed in a monumental way: the US government set up offices inside to provide aid to thousands of Cuban exiles during a mass Cold War exodus, the event that gave the tower its name. By 1979, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and by 1983, included in one of Miami’s Heritage Conservation Board’s Heritage Conservation Districts; more recently, in 2008, it was designated a US National Historic Landmark.
Apparently, Fuller, Schultze & Weaver designed the twelve-story building as a nod to the bell tower of the Gothic-style, fifteenth-century Cathedral of Seville in Spain. It is said that a light that shone from the top was meant to not only declare the home of the city’s first newspaper, but also to act as a lighthouse.
Although the building received some renovations in the last thirty years, it never received a full restoration. By 2003, it was time. Together with Kaufman Lynn Construction and Aeon Preservation Services LLC, Rodriguez and Quiroga replaced over three hundred and fifty original windows with historic replica impact windows that follow hurricane regulations, replaced the copper dome roofing, gave the exterior myriad paint and waterproofing, and restored the interior ballroom.
The Freedom Towe r, owned by Miami Dade College since 2005, now serves as a cultural center, and has showcased many exhibitions dealing with Cuban history, including, most recently in August, For Love of Country: Secrets of an Undercover War in Cuba Revealed.
And while it is almost ten years since the restoration, Rodriguez and Quiroga are finally receiving their due gratitude: the firm received a 2012 Dade Heritage Annual Preservation Award from the Dade Heritage Trust and a 2012 Florida Trust for Historic Preservation for outstanding achievement in restoration/rehabilitation. Additionally this year, AIA Florida included Freedom Tower in its top 100 Florida buildings survey.
Rodriguez and Gonzalez was established in 1983 by Raul L. Rodriguez, who still serves as the firm’s principal, and Antonio M. Quiroga. Rodriguez received his bachelor of architecture from the University of Miami in 1972, and, no stranger to restoration causes, has served as chairman of the Florida Building Commission, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places Trust, and chairman of the Historical Association of Southern Florida.
Although the Freedom Tower commission was a significant project for the firm, and an important restoration for the history of Florida, the US, and Cuba, their work is far more wide ranging. Rodriguez and Quiroga specialize in architecture, urban design, and interior design, and their projects range from civic and educational buildings to residential to interiors to urban planning schemes. Clients have included the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County, Coldwell Banker, Florida International University, the University of Miami, Del Monte Fresh Produce Group, JP Morgan/Chase, the Miami Science Museum, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Coast Guard.