It doesn’t seem much just to apply a bit of a twist to a pair of towers. A quick flick of the architect’s wrist and what looks like a stack of coasters subtly rotates from top to bottom. But in fact it is an engineering nightmare, introducing a complex web of structural forces and torquing moments. From looking up at the serenely calm Grove at Grand Bay towers in Miami, you would never know it though.
Designed by Bjarke Ingels, probably the world’s hottest architect and the brain behind Google’s planned new Silicon Valley HQ and New York’s odd giant tetrahedron, Via 57 West, the Miami towers are perhaps the city’s most compelling new landmark.
Miami’s property explosion didn’t, frankly, lead to a lot of good architecture. Hundreds of cookie-cutter condo towers have given the party city a dormitory skyline, but Bjarke Ingels Group’s towers bristle with kinetic energy. They’d be pretty good even without the twist. Cool, sleek and precisely detailed with a beautifully crafted concrete canopy, it could almost be Brazil. Yet that structural rotation makes the towers seem to dance, the profile transforming with every step you take around the site.
It’s also a clever trick to make the plan align with the roads that border the site, 27th Avenue and Bayshore Drive. They aren’t parallel, so the towers manage to face both the ocean and the city. The continuous ribbon of balconies that wraps around each floor adds to the stack-of-cards effect, making the twist more prominent.
On the one hand, it is a cheap trick (though, paradoxically, also a fearsomely expensive one) that does little other than to differentiate the towers from the bland, generic context. On the other hand, it is a quite magical sleight of hand that differentiates the towers from their bland, generic context. Its form might be generated more by marketing than function, but when the result looks this good, who cares?
Edwin Heathcote is the FT’s architecture correspondent
Photographs: Rasmus Hiortshoj
Read how Miami Beach’s property market is preparing for climate change here.