Public Art Meets Public Parking in Terence Riley’s Museum Garage

Siobhan Morrissey

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Exterior of the Museum Garage.

They should just put a frame around the Museum Garage when it opens next year. Situated across the street from the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, the seven-story, 700-car garage promises to be a fabulous work of art.

Local architect and past director of the former Miami Art Museum, Terence Riley is overseeing the project, which is slated to be unveiled in March. The garage will provide free bike storage and a place to juice up electric vehicles. Several groups worked individually to create five unique façades for the garage. A principal at the K/R firm, Riley resorted to a parlor game to promote innovative thinking among the various artists and architects involved in the project.

“It was a little bit like the Dada artists at the beginning, with the Exquisite Corpse,” says Riley, demonstrating by folding a piece of paper like an accordion. Without peeking at the other’s work, he explained, the first artist would draw a head, the second would flip the paper and draw the torso and the third followed suit with the legs. “It was like that Dadaist exercise. This was not about all those façades going together.”

Yet, somehow the disparate designs are more cohesive than competitive. Not surprisingly, three of the five designs involve automotive motifs. Clavel Arquitectos reinterpreted the rebirth of urban life in Miami’s Design District by “recycling” outdated car bodies and then painting them silver or gold. The Spanish firm’s Urban Jam features 45 fiberglass cars hanging from the façade, frozen in gridlock. Immediately adjacent are the K/R Barricades in which the familiar orange-and-white striped wooden slats are grouped together and turned on their side to form a series of screens. Reminiscent of orange sherbet and sugar sand, the result is quintessential South Florida.

Museum Garage

Rendering of Museum Garage’s exterior

“The most abstract of the automotive works is by Jürgen Mayer,” says Riley. The Berlin-based architect focused on the aerodynamics of the automobile and our love affair with the sleek machines. His work, titled XOX (Hugs and Kisses), resembles a Dubuffet sculpture with its stripes in red, blue and black on white, and series of interlocking puzzle pieces.

Those puzzle pieces fit nicely into the Ant Farm by WORKac of New York. The ant colony structure reveals a microcosm of Miami life—miniature versions of a garden, lending library, art gallery and playground—built into the four-foot thick façade. “You have chutes-and-ladders compositions,” says Riley. “People on the sidewalk will actually be able to see people walking up the stairs.”

The entrance to the garage is done up in grand style by French artist Nicolas Buffe. He mixes European rococo with Japanese manga comic characters. Known for creating a black-and-white wolf façade at the entrance to his show at Tokyo’s Hara Museum three years ago, Buffe embraces the humanist philosophy of serio ludere, serious play, which he hopes will rev up the imagination.

Whether on foot or in a Ferrari, the garage provides ample space for both parking and gawking.

“I think it’s going to get a lot of selfies,” says Riley.