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‘MiMo’

and the concept of Multiple Modernities MArch History and Theory: Year 4 Assessed Component 2011-12 HT1: Edward Denison/ Multiple Modernities Ione Braddick


Ione Braddick Y4 U16

‘MiMo’ and the concept of Multiple Modernities

CONTENTS Introduction

3

Multiple Modernities

3

Miami Modernism

6

Case Study 1: The Bacardi Building, Miami

7

Case Study 2: The Birdcage Houses, Miami

9

Conclusion

11

BIBLIOGRAPHY

14

 


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Introduction This article focuses upon the question of intellectual ownership of the concept of modernity, in particular apparent Western dominance of the term, and how this has affected and shaped the concept of ‘multiple modernities’. Modernity can be seen principally as the rejection of tradition and strict authority as a basis for ideas, including the political, social and aesthetic. The architectural ‘Modern Movement’ tied closely with the ideologies of modernity by discarding the constraints of traditional decorative and formal elements. Succinctly put by Allan T. Shulman, ‘Modernism eschewed tradition and style and rejected ornament; cultivating instead an ascetic image based on formal abstraction, it promoted transparency, the “open plan” and the separation of a building’s structure from its skin. More generally, Modernism sought to reflect the spirit of contemporary society, celebrating technology and espousing a rational approach to design and problem-solving.’1 Looking at architectural modernity alongside the theory of modernization, this article will explore an architectural movement that assimilates aspects of modernity with contextual, historical and vernacular elements; Miami Modernism. Exploring Miami Modernism (or ‘MiMo’ for short) as an example of a multiple modernity, displaying its unique architectural outcomes, poses the question of how much claim the original founders of modernity can have over these multiple modernities, which are often expressed as hybrids of the modern and vernacular, the global and the local. Is it possible to own something stemming from multiple sources? Can ‘modernity’ even be owned, or is its ownership something created and promoted by Western powers? Furthermore, if such complexity and deviation exist in this instance of a multiple modernity within a Western framework, is it appropriate to evaluate modernities in non-western contexts in comparison to one single ‘Western modernity’? Major contemporary scholarship often discusses the multiple modernities of non-western contexts such as Japan, China and India, as the long-standing perceived Western dominance over the ‘modern’ is being called into question worldwide, not only in architecture but throughout society. By using two specific Miami Modernism case studies to pose the questions above, the concept of multiple modernities will be investigated from within the West itself, and its possibilities and its limitations examined.

Multiple Modernities The question of what makes a modern society raises crucial and hotly debated issues of politics, civil society, architecture, and institutional structure. Put crudely ‘…wealth, technology, skills, machines and weapons… are part of being modern.’2 However modernity is not simply defined by its

                                                             1

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Paradise and Paradox: Postwar Miami’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.21 2 Huntington, S.P. (1993) ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, Vol.72, No.3, p.49

 


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material output, it is political thought, societal ideologies and the application of novel concepts; ‘To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.’3 Modernity and modernization initially took form during the European Enlightenment, with its free and questioning approach denying the supremacy of religion and political hierarchy. In its twentieth century apogee, the pioneers of modernity believed that it could, and would, become a universal mode that ‘would ultimately take over in all modernizing and modern societies’4. The concept of a ‘uniform modern world’5 was assumed key to the implication of modernity. In reaction to the twentieth century perception of universal modernity, various theories such as ‘multiple modernities’ or ‘alternative modernities’ have emerged which acknowledge a more complex and pluralized reality. These concepts can be seen as ‘ongoing reconstructions of multiple institutional and ideological patterns… [where] unique expressions of modernity are realized.’6 The word ‘unique’ is crucial here for one aspect of modernity that has existed since its outset, that of ‘ownership’. Modernity and modernization were, for a long time, viewed as synonymous with Westernization, and therefore met with acceptance and appreciation by some, and derision and distrust by others. It was widely accepted that the original ideology of modernisation was founded in the European Enlightenment, and modernity in its original form (as an all-encompassing, universal mode of thinking) began to be accepted throughout Europe in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The ideologies behind modernisation were also used in Western colonisation, and so were seen as tools to enhance Western power and control. Modernity was asserted and defined by European leaders who claimed authority over its concept and ideologies through historical precedence.7 The West laid claim to the movement through its almost total dominance of the scholarship and academia that surrounded and appraised modernity. When ‘the European colonizer of the nineteenth century both preached this Enlightenment humanism at the colonized and at the same time denied it in practice’8, we can see similarities between the asserted ownership over modernity and the study of Orientalism, where

                                                             3

Berman, M. (1982), All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Simon and Schuster, New York, p.15

4

Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.1

5

Eisenstadt, S.N and Shluchter, W. (1998) ‘Introduction: Paths to Early Modernities- A comparative view’, Daedalus, Vol. 127, No. 3, p.1

6

Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.2 ‘To be ‘modern’ was a prerogative of European rulers who claimed the right to define its meaning and assert its forms.’ Hosagrahar, J. (2005) Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating Architecture and Urbanism, Routledge, New York and ‘”modernism” as a term and an ideology…signals a civilizational claim, authorized by the European Enlightenment, about the superiority and accomplishments of modern Western civilization.’ Prakash, V. (2010) ‘Epilogue: Third World Modernism, or Just Modernism: towards a cosmopolitan reading of modernism’ in D. Lu (ed), Third World Modernism, Routledge, New York, p.256 7

8

Chakrabarty, D. (2000) Provincializing Europe, Princeton University Press, Oxford, p.4

 


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Western scholars specialised in the subject of the Orient, thereby claiming more authority over the subject of the Orient and its people, than those people themselves.9 However, the concept of multiple modernities resists this claim of ownership, implying that modernity could never simply be one static program that others (typically non-western) submitted to, but instead is in its very nature something that changes and morphs, ‘…one of the most important characteristics [of modernity] is simply, but profoundly, its potential for self-correction, its ability to confront problems not even imaginable in its original form.’10 According to scholars such as Eisenstadt, modernity’s ability to change and pluralise gave rise to multiple modernities, which existed not only as a response against equating modernisation to westernisation, but that existed from the very outset of modernity, and even within a Western framework. Delanty candidly writes: ‘To speak of European modernity presents an immediate problem: given the diverse nature of Europe how can we speak of European modernity?’11 Moreover, it seems clear that some of the first ‘alternative modernities’ that reconstructed, altered or dismissed original ‘modern’ ideas, did so within a European and Western context. The communist Soviet form of modernism can be viewed as one of the first alternative modernities to the original modern political concepts stemming from the Enlightenment.12 American modernity is also viewed as something related to, but distinctly different from European modernity, especially in an architectural context. If multiple modernities can exist even within a Western framework, with sufficient differences that they merit a new linguistic and conceptual approach beyond simply ‘modernity’ or ‘modernism’, if this amount of complexity, change and plurality is possible, then how can we begin to transpose these concepts of modernity into a non-western context? Ownership over a concept that has changed and diversified into such alternate forms must also be questioned; can the original concepts of modernity still lay claim to forms of modernity so diverse in ideology and output to initial ‘modern’ concepts that they are no longer recognisable? This study seeks to examine the idea of Western ownership of modernity from the inside out, by analysing an example of a multiple modernity in architecture, within a specific Western context; Miami Modernism. Through assessing how multiple modernities are influenced not only by the original idea of modernity but by from their historical, geographical and cultural contexts, we can begin to question whether it is possible to own something that stems from multiple sources and how much these alternative modernities owe to the original form and concepts of modernity.

                                                             9

‘Orientalism can be discussed and analysed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient… in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.’ Said, E.W. (1978) Orientalism, Random House, Inc. , New York, p. 3

10

Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.25

11

Delanty, G. (2005) ‘Cultural translations and European modernity’ in E. Ben-Rafael & Y. Sternberg (eds), Comparing Modernities: Pluralism versus Homogeneity, Leiden: Brill, Boston, p.443 12 Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.11

 


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Miami Modernism Miami Modernism refers to an architectural style and movement that grew in South Florida, in the city of Miami, post-World War II (roughly 1945 to 1965). As an example of an alternative modern style in architecture it is crucial to understand the historical, geographical, political and cultural characteristics of Miami as the context for the architectural ideologies of Miami Modernism. Vital to any multiple modernity is ‘the continuous selection, reinterpretation, and reformulation of these imported [modern] ideas’13 and simultaneously ‘reconstituting the familiar’14, i.e. the traditional, local or vernacular. Miami is located at the southern tip of the United States, above the Tropic of Cancer, giving the region a tropical monsoon climate. This warm, humid environment has shaped much of Miami’s history, ideologies and society. Before 1895 Miami was a settlement of Native American Seminoles, who lived amongst the Everglades; swamp land and water canals (see image 1). A small homesteading community moved into the area along the Miami River and quickly realised the real-estate potential of Miami, with its warm climate and large swathes of land. The Royal Palm Hotel was soon built in 1897 (see image 2), as one of the earliest major buildings in the new city15, beginning Miami’s long-standing and prosperous relationship with tourism, whilst agriculture boomed due to the climate and soil conditions.16 Tourism continued to soar in Miami, and the city quickly became marketed as, and relied upon, for fun, sunshine and leisure. Agriculture remained key to the city’s economy, maintaining the city’s strong connection to its environs. Post WWII, Miami Modernism started to flourish, encompassing the International Style of the Modern movement alongside the post-war American dreams of future and progress, and Miami’s leisure and tourism reputation. A key event which impacted the city and its architecture was Fidel Castro coming into power in nearby Cuba in 1959.17 Many anti-communist Cubans fled to Miami, and this huge Latin American influx largely influenced Miami’s culture, making it a crucial link between the Americas. Miami’s short yet distinctive history shows clearly the way in which modernity, ideologically, and architecturally, materialised in the area. The city’s whole premise was a ’modern’ one; a tourist resort for

                                                             13

Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.15

14

Hosagrahar, J. (2005 )Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating Architecture and Urbanism, Routledge, New York, p.5

15

George, P.S. (1996) ‘Miami: One Hundred Years of History’, South Florida History, Vol. 24, No.2, [online] Summer, Available at: http://www.historymiami.org/research-miami/topics/history-of-miami/ [Accessed on 21 December 2011]

16

The Everglades drainage in 1906 made this soil even more readily available to keen investors, and lead to a ‘feverish’ boom in the real-estate industry. George, P.S. (1996) ‘Miami: One Hundred Years of History’, South Florida History, Vol. 24, No.2, [online] Summer, Available at: http://www.historymiami.org/research-miami/topics/history-ofmiami/ [Accessed on 21 December 2011] 17

Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R (2004) MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco

 


Image 1

‘Everglades Indians’, (n.d.) [image online], Available at: http://historymiamiarchives.org/ online-exhibits/everglades/indians-3.htm [Accessed on 21 December 2011].

Image 2

‘Royal Palm Lodge’, (1920) [image online], Available at: http://historymiamiarchives.org/ online-exhibits/everglades/rpsp-6.htm [Accessed on 21 December 2011]


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the masses, where future American dreams were played out large scale and a new city was created using modern materials, methods and aesthetics.18 Architectural modernism emerged in Miami in the 1930s; Art Deco was a popular aesthetic within the hotels and resorts of Miami 19, and this more decorative style began to be integrated with the ‘cool efficiency’20 and ideals of the International Style that was much revered and publicised at the time. Meanwhile typically modernist elements were being incorporated into designs but with more emphasis placed on their adaptation to the subtropical climate. These first developments of architectural modernism in Miami progressed into the two major strands of Miami Modernism; Resort MiMo’, and ‘Sub-tropical Modern’21. These two strands flourished further within the post-war framework of modernism; there was a search and need for identity within architecture, and regional and local forms and styles began to be addressed. This exploration of an architecture that could address both the vernacular and the global can be seen in both Resort MiMo integrating the fantasy and fun of Miami with the simple and bold forms and ideologies of the Modern style, and in Subtropical Modernism, where the local climate was crucial in the design and choice of modern features.

Case Study 1: The Bacardi Building, Miami The Bacardi Building in Miami (see image 3) is the headquarters of Bacardi USA, the famous Cuban rum producers. It was built in 1963, designed by the Cuban modernist architect Enrique Gutierrez. Its design is often described as a ‘fusion’ of Latin American flavour with Modernist elements; looking East-West the building seems to be composed in the International Style, Miesian in its composition and geometry (see image 4)22. However, looking North-South, brightly coloured blue tiles create two huge mosaics on either façade of the building, giving it a strong Latin American aesthetic. The Bacardi Building is an example of Resort MiMo in the sense that although not a hotel or leisure complex,23 it represents the more flamboyant and decorative style of Miami, especially the Latin

                                                             18

‘The city was largely constructed on machine-fabricated landforms, and materialized as early as the 1920s as a metropolitan center of skyscraping hotels, specialty shopping districts and single-family homes programmed for contemporary living.’ Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Paradise and Paradox: Postwar Miami’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.23

19

The term ‘Art Deco’ is a retrospective appellation given to many of the buildings in Miami. ‘Art Deco’ took many of the forms of the International Style and used them in a paradoxical sense as decorative rather than functional forms. In this way it related to the Modern Movement in aesthetic but differed hugely in ideology.

20

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Paradise and Paradox: Postwar Miami’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.21

21

22

Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R (2004) MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, p.9

 Mies Van de Rohe’s ‘Seagram Building’ in Chicago has a similar composition and style.

  23

‘The formalism and opulence of a modern public architecture was engaged primarily in the city’s resort hotels, its most visible institutions.’ Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Paradise and Paradox: Postwar Miami’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.22

 


Image 3

‘The Bacardi Building, Miami’, (2011) Author’s own, [Taken 19 Novemeber 2011]

Image 4

‘The Seagram Building, Chicago’, Mies Van de Rohe (1969) [image online] Available at: http://ratak-monodosico.tumblr. com/post/13312775622/seagram-building-by-mies-van-derrohe [Accessed on 7 January 2011]


Image 5

‘The Bacardi Building’, (2011) Author’s own, [Taken 19 Novemeber 2011]

Image 6

‘Floating stair of Bacardi Building’, (2008) [image online], Available at: http://www. brittexusa.com/Historic+Bacardi+Museum+Building+-+Biscayne+Blvd+/+Miami [Accessed on 7 Janurary 2011]


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American flair. Since it houses the headquarters of a global rum producer, it also embodies the elements of fun, parties and a good time, so synonymous with Miami. The building was designed after the Bacardi family fled Castro’s Cuba in 1960. Wishing to disassociate themselves from their Cuban background they instead chose to channel the company as a Latin American one, with a global outlook.24 This political and corporate identity shaped the architecture of the new building. The two buildings in the Bacardi complex have been described as ‘outstanding examples of International Style Modernist architecture, and relate to Latin American Modernist architecture in their use of materials and stylistic considerations.’25 The composition of the tower does have elements considered architecturally ‘Modern’ such as the ‘slab of glass bookended by masonry facades’26, the glazed plinth and pilotis (see image 6), the celebration of structure through its exposure, and the transparency of the main curtain walls on the east and west façades27. However, to describe the building as an outstanding example of the International style ignores its context, and that of the Bacardi Family, whilst also underestimating the effect of ‘materials and stylistic considerations’ which showcase the Latin American infusion in the architecture. A more apt description would be that ‘each Modernist element is interpreted in a Latin American 28

idiom’ . Rather than just creating another modern building in the International Style, Gutierrez selected and used some modern ideological and architectural elements where needed for their aesthetics and connotations, while rejecting or forgoing others, showing ‘the continuous selection, reinterpretation, and reformulation of these imported ideas’29. The modernist elements in the design were specifically chosen to help ‘disassociate the company from its past and construct a new identity that spoke only of a clean, bright future’30 displaying itself as a global corporation. This was achieved through clean, geometric lines and forms, the floating building mass, and the visible suspension of the floors by an open truss at the top of the tower (see image 5). On the other hand, the choice to elevate and display the facades of decorative ‘azulejos’ tile work by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand, to clad the plinth in Spanish blueglazed tile, to give the complex less the classic Greek proportions favoured by modernism, but more evoking a ‘Meso-American ball court’31, injected the building with the history and spirit of the Bacardi

                                                                                                                                                                                          24

Lavernia, L. and Uguccioni, E. (2011) ‘Bacardi: Building a Lasting Heritage’, Preservation Today, [online] Available at: http://issuu.com/dadeheritagetrust/docs/preservation_today_2011 [Accessed on 28 Novemeber 2011]

25

Ibid (2011)

26

Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R (2004) MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, p.115

27

See Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Modern Architecture: (1) Pilotis, raising the building off the ground, (2)The open floor plan, (3) The free façade, (4) Horizontal strip windows, (5) The roof garden.

28 29

Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R (2004) MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, p.115 Eisenstadt, S.N. (2000) ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, p.15

30

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘The Bacardi Building: Rum, Revolution and the Crafting of Identity’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.179

31

Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R (2004) MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, p.115

 


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family, and the product itself. More than simply reinterpreting modern ideas, the architecture was influenced by very different and at points paradoxical sources that do not merely sit side by side but are fused together, creating something that would be impossible to classify simply as the ‘modern’ style. It is this complexity that is symptomatic of multiple modernities, but is there a point at which the original ideologies of modernity and the architectural Modern style are diluted so much that they can no longer lay claim to what is created? Alternatively, does the very essence of modernity and its so-called ability to change, morph and be reinterpreted allow it to continue forward in continually reinvented forms? The second case study shows yet another form of modernity, highlighting the array of modernities that can be created within just one specific geographical and historical context.

Case Study 2: The Birdcage Houses, Miami The Heller Houses on Biscayne Island (see images 7-10), better known as the ‘Birdcage Houses’, were built between 1947-1949, designed by American architect, Igor B. Polevitsky. Post WWII there was a huge market for designing single family residences as the population, tourism, automobile and aviation industries increased dramatically in Miami. The population boom led many architects, including Polevitsky, to experiment with the residential typology of the South Florida home; one that was modern, forward-looking, yet retained the region’s architectural identity32. The Birdcage Houses were a culmination of previous ‘tropotype’33 explorations, where Polevitsky ‘…in a series of typological and tectonic experiments… amplified the region’s characteristic patio and porch until these elements constituted the function, form and image of the home’34, and were also said to be influenced by the Case Study Houses in California (see images 11-12), a series of affordable modern homes designed by leading American architects. Initially the Birdcage Houses seem entirely Modern in their composition; raised off the ground, the structure and frame exposed and clearly visible, the glass facades giving prominence to both transparency and light and it is noted that ‘there may have been no more direct expression of the first underlying principle of the International Style: architecture as a volume rather than mass.’35

                                                             32

Lejeune, J-F, ‘The Florida Home: Modern Living 1945-1965’, Historical Museum of Southern Florida [exhibition online] Available at: http://aarf.com/floridahomes05.htm [Accessed on 29 December 2011]

33

‘Tropotype’ was a name given to a series of houses that Polevitsky designed in the late 1930s- these were raised cottages with wrapping balconies.

34

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.385

35

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.386

 


Images 7, 8, 9 and 10

‘Birdcage Houses’, Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach


Image 8

Image 9

Image 10


Image 11

‘Case Study House #9; Entenza House by Charles Eames and Eero Saarninen’ [image online] Available at: http://housing.progressivedisclosure.net/categories/homes/architecture-case-study-houses-1945-1966/case-study-house-9-entenza-house.html [Accessed on 6 January 2011]

Image 12

‘Case Study House #16; Fields House by Craig Eliwood’, [image online] Available at: http://workdifferent.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/case-study-houses/ [Accessed on 6 January 2011]


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However, closer inspection shows not simply the International Style placed in Miami, but a modern architecture of Miami – shaped by its climatic and geographical context. Polevitsky wanted to test the relationship between interior and exterior, between house and the classic Florida element of the porch, as it was clear to him that ‘outdoor-oriented spaces were the building blocks of distinct South Florida residential architecture’36. Whilst he pursued modernity in his architecture using clean, functional and geometrical compositions, he maintained his previous preoccupations with a regional identity and environmental awareness, leading to a subtropical modern architecture. Elements of the houses which may appear of the International Style can also be traced back to vernacular South Florida architecture; the traditional raised cottage type allowing air to naturally cool the house from underneath (see image 13) provides a precursor to the raised Birdcage Houses; the exaggeration of the traditional ‘Florida Room’37 (see image 14) into a “glass-box” treatment of the whole house; the tempered outdoor effect within the house as an elaboration of the ‘notion of rooftop living that was popular in Miami before World War II’38; the open central space similar to the plan of the ‘Florida cracker dogtrot’39 (see image 15), and the use of the wood frame vernacular. These strategies can all be seen in Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points for a New Architecture’40 and although impossible to argue definitively how far Polevitsky was influenced by the Floridian vernacular or by Modernist arguments, elements described as fundamentally ‘Modern’, pilotis, for example, could potentially be disconnected from their original design intent as a natural cooling method, and instead interpreted only in a Modernist context. This prevention of an accurate historical interpretation, can essentially be seen as an adjustment, and appropriated ownership, of their history. Allan T. Shulman writes: ‘As a house type, the birdcages embodied the intertwining of the modern and primitive and the progressive and traditional, a leitmotif not only of a new regional architecture, but of postwar Miami’s culture in general.’41 The Birdcage Houses point towards an architectural modernity using both vernacular and modern elements, but also questions the authenticity of these elements and their sources- is it feasible to categorically say where one aspect of the house came from? The architecture seems to have stemmed from multiple sources and combined in such a manner so as to create a new architectural modernity. However it raises question, if the elements, forms and functions of this subtropical modernism can be found in the local vernacular, how far can they be

                                                             36

Lejeune, J-F, ‘The Florida Home: Modern Living 1945-1965’, Historical Museum of Southern Florida [exhibition online] Available at: http://aarf.com/floridahomes05.htm [Accessed on 29 December 2011] 37 A semi-outdoor conservatory-like room that evolved from the simple porch. 38

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.387

39 ‘Dogtrot House’, Great Buildings [online] Available at: http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Dogtrot_House.html [Accessed 28 December 2011]. 40

See ref. 28.

41

Shulman, A.T, (2009) ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), (2009) Miami Modern Metropolis, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, p.389

10 

 


Image 13

‘Lower Everglades settlements in Chokoloskee’, (1960) [image online], Available at: http://historymiamiarchives.org/online-exhibits/everglades/lower-5.htm [Accessed on 21 December 2011]

Image 14

‘Lower Everglades settlements in Chokoloskee’, (1960) [image online], Available at: http://historymiamiarchives.org/online-exhibits/everglades/lower-5.htm [Accessed on 21 December 2011]


Image 15

‘Dogtrot House’, Great Buildings [image online] Available at: http://www.greatbuildings. com/buildings/Dogtrot_House.html [Accessed 28 December 2011].

Image 16

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ , Pablo Picasso (1907) [image online] Available at: http:// painting-analysis.blogspot.com/2011/01/picasso-les-demoiselles-davignon.html [Accessed on 5 January 2011]


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credited to the original Modern movement? European or Western modernism can often be seen to have been developed by incorporating the vernacular, or the indigenous, but without respecting or acknowledging its cultural role in its original environment. Elements were assimilated into the Modern language and so seemingly became ‘owned’ by Modernism.42 (See image 16.)

In both case studies the architecture inherited its aesthetic, form and ideology from multiple sources. This question of the vernacular versus the modern is one deeply embedded in the issue of multiple modernities. Whilst modernity in its original form scorned tradition and the ‘local’, the concept of multiple modernities accepts the fusion of modern ideologies with vernacular ones. In fact, this is the very basis of multiple modernities; modernity did not succeed as a universal mode, it morphed into alternates when it encountered another culture, context, climate or history. In 1950s Miami, modern architecture did not simply re-use the International Style, but took elements of modernity that suited the situation of the architecture (the corporate geometry of the Bacardi Building, or the sleek transparency of glazing in the Birdcage Houses) and incorporated the vernacular and the local. It is futile to argue whether the Bacardi Building owes more to Miesian composition than to the traditional craft of tile-making, just as it would be to try and decipher whether Poletvitsky raised the Birdcage Houses off the ground as a nod to Corbusier’s pilotis or based on the familiar method of natural cooling. It is not a question of finding the exact references or influence for each architectural element, but rather, of interpreting the buildings as wholes, as hybrids of the modern and the vernacular. Hosagrahar describes buildings in non-Western contexts as: ‘The emergent built forms, their use and meanings, though not identical to the ones idealized in Western Europe, were nevertheless modern.’43 This argument for new and hybrid forms is not only relevant in non-western contexts, but within the West itself, as seen by the architectures of Miami Modernism.

Conclusion It is important to note that Miami Modern case studies were selected in order to explore multiple modernities within a Western context. When the topic of ‘ownership’ of modernity is debated, ‘the West’ is often referred to as a single entity- clearly this is not the case. Talking of ‘the West’ hugely oversimplifies the array of different cultures, histories and communication within it, and seemingly

                                                             42

This occurred in all forms of modernity. Another example in the aesthetic form can be seen in Pablo Picasso’s painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, (1907). It was considered seminal in the turning point of modern art and cubism. Whilst the faces of the nudes were influenced by African masks, the indigenous element is taken entirely out of context and presented as a modern form. 43 Hosagrahar, J. (2005) Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating Architecture and Urbanism, Routledge, New York, p.2

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ignores ‘the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization.’44 By selecting case studies within this complex and dense context, and showing them as examples of multiple modernities and of hybridity, it is clear that even multiple modernities within the West cannot be attributed to the West alone. How, then, can we begin to analyse non-western modernities in a solely Western framework? The two case studies are not only wholly different from one another, but also display differences from the International Style that has come to represent ‘original’ architectural modernity. However, arguably, the concept of modernity is something continuously in flux; as Delanty writes, ‘‘Modernities’ do not simply exist as coherent or stable units, but are in a constant process of change.’45 Modernity’s ability to change, or evolve, leads to the pressing question of whether Western ‘ownership’ of modernity can continue when something has changed so much from its original form, and when it has changed to incorporate other paradoxical ideologies. The city of Miami, for example, equipped with its core foundations of fantasy, luxury and artifice might have been considered the last place that austere architectural modernity would have flourished. Indeed, Resort MiMo was even rejected by many leading Modernist architects at the time, branded ‘an unconsciously cruel parody of modern architecture in our day’46, encapsulating how different strands of modernity can entirely contrast with the ‘original’. This fundamental aspect of modernism, its potential for change, has allowed, even promoted, the overthrow of western dominance, just as the import of western political forms into Asia and Africa provided the framework for colonial powers to be ejected from political power in these countries. It needs to be considered then not only whether it is possible to own something that stems from multiple sources, but also whether it is possible to own something that has changed so dramatically from its original concept. It would seem that the answer to these questions is no; a hybrid form is a new thing in itself and though influenced by multiple sources, it should not be seen as indebted to one in particular, especially when ‘western modernity’ as one influence may well have incorporated vernacular features into its own repertoire, appropriating them as ‘Modern’. The Birdcage Houses can be seen as explorations into regional architecture, searching for an architectural identity for South Florida house types- this directly opposes the original idea that Modern architecture could be universal, with one type existing worldwide. However they do take elements of the International Style and use them to their advantage. Similarly the Bacardi Building creates corporate monumentality with its tripartite division and its clean crisp geometry, but refuses to neglect the users of the building- the Bacardi family and their Latin American roots. Both buildings create an architecture that is distinct, and new, one that cannot merely be viewed as a by-product of the International Style, but rather as something that is strongly influenced by this as well as a number of other sources.

                                                             44

Said, E. W.(2001) The Clash of Ignorance, The Nation, [online] 4 October, Available at: <http://www.thenation.com/article/clash-ignorance> [Accessed on 20 December 2011]. 45 Delanty, G. (2005) ‘Cultural translations and European modernity’ in E. Ben-Rafael & Y. Sternberg (eds), Comparing Modernities: Pluralism versus Homogeneity, Leiden: Brill, Boston, p.451 46

Unknown,(1959) ‘Miami Beach: Dream Dump USA’, Architectural Forum, Issue 111, pp.130-133

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If Miami Modernism can be seen as an example of a multiple modernity, it is one that is divergent and distinct within the West. Although the term ‘multiple modernity’ could be deceptive (perhaps implying simply an offshoot of the master narrative of modernity, and therefore a debt to the original founders of modernity in Europe) it must be remembered that modernity was never meant to be ‘owned’- it was intended to be ‘non-identitarian’47, to be universal. It can be argued that what has been achieved is not universally homogenous but, nonetheless, global. Multiple modernities exist worldwide, each individual to their historical, local and cultural context, and are neither a Western nor European construct, but one that relies on the hybridization of the modern with the vernacular and the global with the local, to create something unique.

                                                             47 Prakash, V. (2010) ‘Epilogue: Third World Modernism, or Just Modernism: towards a cosmopolitan reading of modernism’ in D. Lu (ed), Third World Modernism, Routledge, New York, p.262

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books Chakrabarty, D. Provincializing Europe, (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000) Cohen, J.L., Le Corbusier, (Koln: Taschen, 2004) Delanty, G. ‘Cultural translations and European modernity’ in E. Ben-Rafael & Y. Sternberg (eds), Comparing Modernities: Pluralism versus Homogeneity, (Boston: Leiden: Brill, 2005) Eisenstadt, S.N., ‘Japan and the Multiplicity of Cultural Programmes of Modernity’, Comparative civilizations and multiple modernities, Vol. 1, (The Netherlands: Leiden: Brill, 2003) Frampton, K., A Critical History of Modern Architecture, 4th ed., (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2007) Fukuyama, F., The End of History and the Last Man, (London: Penguin, 1992) Hosagrahar, J., Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating Architecture and Urbanism, (New York: Routledge, 2005) Isokaki, A., Japan-ness in architecture, Translated by S.Kohso, (MIT Press, 2006) Jeanneret, C.E., Towards a New Architecture, 13th ed., (Essex: Butterworth & Co., 1989, originally written 1927) Nash, E.P. & Robinson, C.R, MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, (San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC, 2004) Pevsner, N., The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968) Prakash, V. ‘Epilogue: Third World Modernism, or Just Modernism: towards a cosmopolitan reading of modernism’ in D. Lu (ed), Third World Modernism, (New York: Routledge, 2010) Read, G., ‘The Bacardi Building: Rum, Revolution and the Crafting of Identity’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), Miami Modern Metropolis, (Miami Beach: The Bass Museum of Art, 2009) Said, E.W., Orientalism, (New York: Random House Inc., 1978) Shulman, A.T, ‘Alfred Browning Parker’s Organic Florida Homes’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), Miami Modern Metropolis, (Miami Beach: The Bass Museum of Art, 2009) Shulman, A.T., ‘The Bacardi Building: Rum, Revolution and the Crafting of Identity’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), Miami Modern Metropolis, (Miami Beach: The Bass Museum of Art, 2009) Shulman, A.T, ‘Igor Polevitsky’s Birdcage Houses’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), Miami Modern Metropolis, (Miami Beach: The Bass Museum of Art, 2009) Shulman, A.T, ‘Paradise and Paradox: Postwar Miami’, In: A.T. Shuman (ed.), Miami Modern Metropolis, (Miami Beach: The Bass Museum of Art, 2009) Journals Eisenstadt, S.N. ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1, (2000) 14 

 


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Eisenstadt, S.N. and Shluchter, W. ‘Introduction: Paths to Early Modernities- A comparative view’, Daedalus, Vol. 127, No. 3, (1998) Huntington, S.P., ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, Vol.72 (1993) S.R.G. ‘Preface’, Daedalus, Vol. 127, No. 3, (1998)

Online journals/ articles ‘The Everglades’ [exhibition online], Available at: http://historymiamiarchives.org/onlineexhibits/everglades/indians-3.htm [Accessed on 21 December 2011]. George, P.S., ‘Miami: One Hundred Years of History’, South Florida History, Vol. 24, No.2, [online] (Summer, 1996), Available at: http://www.historymiami.org/research-miami/topics/history-of-miami/ [Accessed on 21 December 2011] Lavernia, L. and Uguccioni, E., ‘Bacardi: Building a Lasting Heritage’, Preservation Today, (2011) [online] Available at: http://issuu.com/dadeheritagetrust/docs/preservation_today_2011 [Accessed on 28 Novemeber 2011] Lejeune, J-F, ‘The Florida Home: Modern Living 1945-1965’, Historical Museum of Southern Florida [exhibition online] Available at: http://aarf.com/floridahomes05.htm [Accessed on 29 December 2011] Meindl, C.F., ‘On the Eve of Destruction: People and Florida’s Everglades from the late 1800s to 1908’, Tequesta, [online], No.LXIII, (2003) Available at: http://digitalcollections.fiu.edu/tequesta/files/2003/03_1_01.pdf, [Accessed on 21 December 2011]. Ringen, J., ‘Lapidus Luxury’, Metropolis ,(2007) [online] Available at: http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0101/ml.htm [Accessed on 29 December 2011] Rousseau, B., ‘In Conversation: Chad Oppenheim’, Businessweek, (2007) [online] Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/jun2007/id20070626_580904.htm [Accessed on 29 December 2011] Said, E.W., The Clash of Ignorance, The Nation, [online] 4 October 2001, Available at: <http://www.thenation.com/article/clash-ignorance> [Accessed on 20 December 2011]. Shulman, A.T, ‘Miami Grows Up’, Architectural Record (2010) [online] Available at: http://archrecord.construction.com/features/miami/1006Miami_grows_up-2.asp [Accessed on 29 December 2011]

Film/Video ArchRecordTV, ‘My Miami with Allan Shulman: The Bacardi Building’, (2010) [video online]Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZQgqr-QzHI [Accessed on 29 December 2011] SailingTV, ‘Bacardi Building, Miami’, (2011) [video online]Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f3KZ6U6FDY&feature=related [Accessed on 29 December 2011]

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'Mimo' and the concept of Multiple Modernities  

An article written on the concept of multiple architectural modernities through the case study of Miami Modernism.

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