While art museums typically disregard the out-of-doors, the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida embraces its surroundings in addition to creating a “jewel box” to house the art inside the building. Elements of the landscape are incorporated into the building’s form – lush, vertical gardens that imitate the tropics of Miami; a raised building sensitive to the local climate; and a diverse planting palette throughout the site, featuring native species.
The museum is situated on the waterfront of Biscayne Bay next to Miami Beach, an area that is being redeveloped. Right across the bay from American Airlines Arena sits the inviting Bicentennial Park. This area ties in with the museum beautifully, making the Perez a natural sister to the park by connecting plant life and open forms. The museum tries not to dominate the landscape, but be part of it.
Getting to Know the Plants of Perez Art Museum
Horticulturist Michael Davenport (from Fairchild Tropical Garden) and Jeff Shimonski (from Jungle Island), along with plant designer Patrick Blanc, set out to design the vertical gardens in front of the museum. Their integration of the outside with the inside can be seen throughout the museum, which embraces the landscape with large windows that invite nature in.
This is in contrast to the standard museum jewel box design, in which galleries are mostly artificially lit. All of the design choices were intentional, tohighlight the tropical climate that exists exclusively in Miami. Native plants to this area, as well as adapted plants, were brought in with sustainability in mind. The plant palette was chosen based on which plants would require small amounts of water, support local fauna, and bring the site together into a single experience.
WATCH: Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM): Hanging Gardens
How the Perez Art Museum Creates Sustainability
The designers of the building decided to pass on LEED accreditation so that they could focus on site-specific sustainability goals. Miami is a unique environment that needs to have its landscape manipulated in certain ways to be more sustainable.
The most notable effort at the museum is the roof overhang/veranda, which is hung with vegetation used as a natural barrier from the heat. As well, due to the museum’s proximity to the waterfront, the building is lifted on stilts. This becomes a special feature of the site, because the land below the museum is used as a parking deck. All of these together minimize heating and cooling requirements and help with natural airflow through the site.
Water shortages were also seen as a likely problem, so instead of taking water from the city, the museum collects rainwater and stores condensation from the air conditioning units.
The Veranda at Perez Art Museum
One of the most stunning aspects of the museum is the veranda, which encompasses the whole footprint of the building and provides vital shade. The museum becomes something of an egg inside of the nest of the veranda. The veranda holds the hanging gardens, which reinforce the idea that this area is one of transition from hot to cool and dry to moist. The veranda provides shade not only for the people, but also for the artwork, ensuring that none of the art is damaged by the climate.
Perez Art Museum is a New Type of Museum
Most museums focus on the fact on that what’s inside attracts people to its doors. But the Perez Art Museum sees itself more as an experience and less as a house for paintings. The building becomes a part of nature and a piece in its own gallery.
The museum houses exhibition galleries, education centers, an auditorium that functions as a staircase, and views of the beautiful bay outside of its windows. These windows are actually made of the largest panes of hurricane-resistant glass ever made. Miami set out to make not only a cultural museum for its citizens, but also an environmentally incorporated building for the city’s landscape.
WATCH: Perez Art Museum Miami Opening
The Perez Art Museum aims to be a vibrant cultural icon in Miami that invites the public to be a part of it. Through environmental planting, design, and concepts in accordance with aesthetic forms, it certainly succeeds. It seems this museum will be a jewel in Miami’s downtown.