The opening of the Pérez Art Museum Miami was the star attraction of this year's Art Basel Miami Beach. It was not only art lovers who flocked to see the new 3000 square-metre gallery by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (we first visited the Perez in April, when it was still under construction). On the first Sunday of its public opening, the parking lot was overflowing and locals were queuing round the block to take a tour of their newest cultural landmark.
Surrounded by lush tropical planting, the glass and concrete structure is raised on stilts and features a sweeping veranda and hanging columns of plants. Each gallery offers views over bridges, highrises, and expanses of tropical blue water. You couldn't be anywhere other than Miami - which for project architect and senior partner Christine Binswanger, was the point. 'Given the spectacular location, PAMM offers more views than any of the other 14 museums we have built,' she says. 'To balance the intimate and concentrated experience of contemporary art with exposure to the sea and the park was one of the things we wanted to achieve.'
Adds Binswanger: 'We wanted the building to be rough, to feel real, inside and outside, not invent another interesting cladding. Concrete as a structure and a finish has rarely been done around here, and for a museum even less so.' At the Perez Art Museum, It works perfectly. The work of late Cuban painter Amelia Peláez and the hanging steel sculpture of Monika Sosnowska simply pop against the concrete walls.
Until March, Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei (with whom Herzog & de Meuron collaborated on the Beijing 'Bird's Nest' stadium) is the headline act, but the museum has its own permanent collection of 1800 works, many of which are by American and Latin American artists and occupy the two lower levels of the building. A huge, open plan screening area hints at an impressive film programme.
With its extensive greenery, acres of glass and seamless transitions from the outside to the inside, PAMM is the antitheses of the intimidating 'white cube.'
'Museums should be as open as possible to a real variety of attitudes and forms. PAMM can become such a place for everyone,' says Jacques Herzog. Judging by the local Sunday crowds, who were sporting six-inch heels, mini skirts and bikinis and pushing baby strollers, his assertions might just be right.