MIAMI – Chris and Dominic Leong, co-founders of the New York-based firm Leong Leong, designed a portion of the City View Garage in the Miami Design District. The firm was commissioned together with IwamotoScott Architecture and conceptual artist John Baldessari to re-design the garage. Leong Leong completed the 24-m-tall western façade, exploring a simple material which plays with the idea of the sunlight hitting the ocean. Known for modern and playful design, the brothers Chris and Dominic tell us more about the project.
The project consist of three parts. What’s the story behind this division and did you work with a shared philosophy?
CL: The idea that a singular structure can have multiple identities is very compelling. The different façades allow for varied experiences at multiple scales and vantage points. When someone is driving past, the south façade runs parallel to the freeway and looks like a three-dimensional billboard. From the east and west, the façades appear more as separate buildings and relate to the scale of the neighbourhood. There was no shared ideology among the designs. In fact, each collaborator was given agency by the owner to pursue independent ideas.
Can you describe your façade?
CL: This building is really more than just a parking garage. Given its prominent location on the periphery of the neighbourhood and adjacency to the I-195 freeway, it is an urban object that marks the beginning of the Design District. The façade, which is a pattern of curvilinear shapes punched and bent out of titanium-coated stainless steel, creates a visual effect that looks like the shimmering patterns of light on the surface of water from a distance, and like the foliage of a palm tree from below. The result is a surface that simultaneously radiates and dissolves.
Is there a relationship between the function of the building and your design?
DL: Yes, the openings in the façade were a requirement to maintain natural ventilation in the parking structure. The pattern of openings transforms this functional requirement into an iconic urban object. In Miami, the parking structure has become a typology that transcends pure functionality and has become part of the identity of the city. This may have all started with Herzog and de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road project. Following in this recent tradition, the City View Garage has a certain exuberance and even excess that speaks to the transformation of the Design District neighbourhood.
CL: There is a quality of the building that we could have never described in drawings or renderings. It has to do with the constantly changing character of light in Miami and how the façade either absorbs or reflects it.
There is a minimalism in your work in the sense that you seem to like to use single colours and single materials. What’s the origin of that preference?
DL: We are interested in how materials behave in different conditions. Using a much edited palette allows the material to reveal its unexpected qualities. You can never totally predict how a material will behave until it’s installed. We think trying to reveal this unpredictability is very exciting.