Herzog and de Meuron are among the world’s most respected architectural firms. The practice has, over the years, gained recognition for conjuring up original building solutions. One such design of theirs is the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County, or as it’s popularly known: the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Upon its completion in 2014, the museum became the city’s most significant work of tropical modernism. It symbolises Miami’s design sensibility, progressive spirit and the lush natural environment of Florida’s coast.
Over the past 50 years, Miami has grown into a culturally diverse place. However, the architectural style hasn’t changed much, highlighted by Spanish Revival and Art Deco styles. Frank Gehry’s New World Symphony concert hall brought forward a break in the architecture style, and in 2014, The Pérez Art Museum Miami by Herzog and de Meuron was next to make a breakthrough.
The museum was an inspired response to the city’s subtropical climate and its waterfront. Slender concrete columns support a deck raised over ground-level parking, and a 23-metre high canopy shades the three-storey block of galleries and support spaces.
The museum focuses on international, modern and contemporary art, emphasising Latin American, Caribbean and African art. This global context of art is due to Miami’s cultural dynamics. The museum can be seen as a focal point for a city that has yet to forge a strong civic identity, like LA or New York , as it brings forward inclusive art and artists.
The building’s structural system design grew out of functionality. The whole development was lifted above ground— with the help of stilts— to protect the building from the nearby ocean’s storm surge levels. While dealing with stormwater runoff, the space underneath the raised platform serves as a parking area. The columns are strategically placed across the site and support the platform, upper levels of the museum, and the roof.
Moreover, the design called for large galleria spaces with open spans from 50-100 feet. To achieve these clear spans, Herzog and de Meuron employed a system of floor slabs and up-turned beams cast together with walls in order to create box-like structural systems. This system requires only three wall supports to be stable and, in turn, opens up wall space used for offering stunning views. With the issue of the added dead load prominent, the most economical system was employed— a recessed slab consisting of a steel reinforced concrete voided flat plate. The recesses increased the floor thickness by 6 inches, a requirement for the design to house lights and sprinkler systems in these voids.
The initial goal was to create a place where casual visitors could stop by in the park and be pulled in to explore the art through the architecture. The big challenge was to develop a balance of openness and protection from heat, humidity, and storms. The solution brought forward some essential features for the museum: canopy to shade buildings, a terrace that wraps around it, and a portico facing east over the bay. Vertical planters are suspended from the canopy, contributing to the cooler microclimate in the shaded area.
Planters are strategically placed throughout the main level. Upon approaching the site, the visitors are guided towards the building’s entrance with the help of a split garden. Other planters help hide stairwells and utilities, providing a clean visual appearance. Hanging gardens surround most of the building, holding native plants as they slowly sway in the wind. The Pérez Art Museum Miami would not have its tropical allure without the lush landscaping.
PAMM comprises four gallery types: Overview, Focus, Project and Special Exhibition. The Overview galleries display the museum’s collection and serve as a connection between the other gallery types. The galleries allow relationships to be formed between spaces by fluid connectivity. Along these rooms are spaces highlighting an individual artist, a theme, a specific collection or a commissioned work— called Focus and Project galleries. Meanwhile, the Special Exhibition galleries are spacious halls designed to accommodate contemporary art exhibitions. While the Overview, Focus and Project galleries form a rhythmic sequence throughout the building, varying in proportion and relationship to the outside, the Special Exhibition galleries are flexible, with a weaker relationship to the outside.
The galleries span two building levels, connected by a broad stairway that acts as an auditorium. While in most museums, the auditoriums are isolated, at PAMM, it’s incorporated within the main transition area and is used for hosting lectures, film screenings, and other performances. When not actively used, it serves as an introductory lobby for visitors and a reading area. Education, research facilities and curator offices are on the third level, positioned along the building’s skin to afford great views.
The museum possesses an array of cutting-edge green features. As evidence of this: in 2015, the team achieved a LEED Gold certification. The dramatic exterior canopy was not purely aesthetic; it was designed to provide shade around the building and significantly reduce the cooling loads. A signature element of Herzog and de Meuron’s design is the hanging gardens, suspended from the canopy. These are irrigated by collected rainwater, thus reducing the building’s water consumption
The museum’s air conditioning circulates through an underfloor air distribution system— this system is more efficient and consumes less energy without compromising the ventilation quality. It is a low-velocity system which results in lower pressure drops, hence decreasing the fan energy while supplying high-quality air from a low level. This underfloor system also needs more undersized ductwork than the overhead alternative. Waste heat recovery is utilized for the dehumidification of spaces.
Other steps taken were to reduce the required resources for sustaining a nature-infused building. The elevated public deck sits above a parking lot made from crushed shells, which allows rainwater to infiltrate the ground naturally. The native and adapted plant palette was considered to require minimal water, support the habitation of animals found in the area, and integrate the built elements of the Museum Park. With the help of natural light and occupancy and daylight sensors, artificial lighting energy consumption is lowered.
With contemporary art museums being accused of being lifeless white boxes, the Pérez Art Museum Miami is a welcome relief. The entry and approach experienced are ingenious, with a fluid transition from the park to the veranda-like boardwalk to the flowing spaces. The landscaping brings a calming effect, and simple materials like concrete and wood have been used innovatively to create a cohesive visual backdrop. Due to all these design interventions, PAMM is a worthy cultural and educational addition to Miami’s beachfront.
Citations for websites:
ArchDaily (2014). Perez Art Museum / Herzog and de Meuron. [online]. (Last updated: 7 April 2014). Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/493736/perez-art-museum-herzog-and-de-meuron [Accessed 12 July 2022].
Transsolar (2014). PAMM Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL, USA. [online]. Available at: https://transsolar.com/projects/new-perez-art-museum [Accessed 12 July 2022].
Samuel Nguma (2015). Pérez Art Museum: A Miami Stiltsville Metaphor by Herzog & De Meuron. [online]. Available at: https://www.archute.com/perez-art-museum-herzog-de-meuron/ [Accessed 12 July 2022].
ArquitectonicaGEO (2014). Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). [online]. Available at: https://arquitectonicageo.com/project/perez-art-museum-miami-pamm/?print=pdf [Accessed 12 July 2022].
Michael Webb (2014). Miami Virtue: Pérez Art Museum in Miami by Herzog & de Meuron. [online]. (Last updated: 3 June 2014). Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/today/miami-virtue-perez-art-museum-in-miami-by-herzog-de-meuron [Accessed 13 July 2022].
Seamus Payne (2015). The Perez Art Museum Miami is a Monument to Tropical Modernism. [online]. Available at: https://www.thecoolist.com/the-perez-art-museum-miami-is-a-monument-to-tropical-modernism/ [Accessed 15 July 2022].
CRSI (n.d.). CRSI: CRSI- Projects. [online]. Available at: https://www.crsi.org/projects-responsive/project.cfm?articleID=9BEF37C6-C318-ADCD-F87794FE87F35499&categoryIDs=552605F1-F1F6-B13E-81447CAD4D183258 [Accessed 15 July 2022].
Citations for YouTube videos:
Art Basel. (2018) Meet The Institutions | The Pérez Art Museum Miami. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8Jvk15BI18 [Accessed 12 July 2022].
VernissageTV. (2018). Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) by Herzog & de Meuron Architects. [YouTube video]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ4gMTIfR-g [Accessed 12 July 2022].
VISIT FLORIDA. (2014). Florida Travel: Visit the Pérez Art Museum Miami. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8UgbT2s7jo [Accessed 15 July 2022].
Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:
Last name of artist/photographer, first initial (if known). (Year of production). Title of image . [type of medium] (Collection Details if available – Document number, Geographical place: Name of library/archive/repository).
Baan, I. (2014). Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].
CRSI. (n.d.). Construction of Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].
Azoulay, D. (2014). Auditorium: Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].
Tarridas, O. (2014). Focus Gallery: Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].
Hill, R. (2013). Hanging Cylindrical Gardens: Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].
Hill, R. (2013). Vegetation in Pérez Art Museum Miami. [Photograph].