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The tropical metropolis

The tropical metropolis
By Francesco Maria Cerroni -

Far from the gritty megacities of the northern United States, the city of Miami on America’s southern-most East Coast, with a population of 5.5 million, is one of the country’s most vibrant centres, today again at the forefront of architectural debate.

Recent statistics show that 60% of the population speak Spanish - the result of the constant immigrant flows during the last century, especially from Cuba. This demographic, together with its geographical proximity, makes Miami Latin America’s real economic capital, attracting huge investments from South America.

Perhaps more than any other American city, Miami’s legacy is truly the classical American story of settling uninhabited land. The area could only be colonized after drainage of the Everglades - the mosquito and alligator infested brackish swamps that covered most of southern Florida. The area was first turned into farmland and subsequently into elegant modern residential neighbourhoods crisscrossed by a network of drainage canals.

Later, around 1920 - well before Dubai’s famous palm tree - Collins Bridge was built across the bay to link the mainland to geometrically modelled artificial islands built to host top-end residential complexes. The bridge also allowed the development of Miami Beach, a former coconut grove strip that was famously turned into a “billion-dollar sandbar”.

Canals, bridges, artificial islands and causeways still form the baseline infrastructure of the city and shape its distinctive layout.

Rising out of this infrastructure and standing out against the bright tropical sky are the many pastel coloured buildings that make this cityscape of palm trees, swimming pools, convertible sports cars, yachts, cruise ships, modernist villas and skyscrapers with terraces one of the most famous places in the world. Miami’s aura has not waned. The city continues to be a favourite of the world’s...

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