Empty buildings don’t have a long life-expectancy in Miami, but the story about the 1963 Bacardi headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard has a happy ending.
This modernist blue and white tile structure was profiled recently in an issue of Ocean Drive magazine. It was designed by Cuban architect Enrique Gutierrez, who previously worked on Bacardi’s headquarters in Mexico City. Liquor companies at the time where trying to shake a seedy image that still lingered from the prohibition era in the United States. Ocean Drive writer Tom Austin argues that these companies found a way out through embracing modernism. Imagine some besuited executive types swilling cocktails in a classy tasting bar surrounded by art and expensive furniture – that’s the kind of vibe Bacardi was going for. The building’s notable facade, which stood out against the other buildings in Miami is an extension of that aesthetic.
The building towers above its neighbors and features handpainted tiles depicting tropical themes by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand. An annex building was constructed by architect Ignacio Carrera-Justiz later in 1974. Photographs of both buildings are included below.
The company moved its headquarters in 2009 to Coral Gables, leaving their old building vacant. In Miami, this was a dangerous position for the structure to be in. However, in 2009 Miami citizens began a campaign to label the building as historic. Their efforts were bolstered with the help of people like University of Miami architecture professor Allan Shulman, who said “Miami’s brand is its identity as a tropical city. The Bacardi buildings are exactly the sort that resonate with our consciousness of what Miami is about.”
The Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board and then-Mayor Manny Diaz declared the building historic, which will protect it from the wrecking balls of future developers. Although Bacardi still hasn’t decided what to do with the structure, its historic status ensures that it will be beaming its liquor-infused sexiness into the surrounding city for years to come.
Above image: The 1963 Bacardi Building in midtown Miami.
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