Exquisite modern architecture explodes with Cuban color in Miami’s Bacardi building complex, which has long enchanted local residents and tourists. Two buildings sit on the site, separated by a wide raised plaza of red stone on which the Bacardi bat logo is emblazoned.
When Bacardi left Cuba in 1960, company president Pepín Bosch directed the purchase of land in Miami, foreseeing a need for office buildings there. He called on a protégé of famed architect Mies van der Rohe, who had created plans for Bacardi offices in Cuba, to create an office tower for the company’s Miami operations. Enrique Gutiérrez, himself a Cuban, blended the vibrancy of Latin art with Modernist style in a building that would become a city icon.
Completed in 1963, the eight-story tower features curtain walls of dark glass typical of the Modernist style, while the north- and south-facing exterior walls provide contrast with enormous azulejo murals designed by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand. Tropical plants and animals adorn the building in shades of blue and white. The 28,000 tiles necessary to complete the mural “puzzle” were each hand-numbered by Brennand and took more than six months to install.
A decade later, Bacardi added an annex that would later be known as the “Jewel Box” or the “Bacardi cube.” This building, designed by Ignacio Carrera-Justiz, features cantilever construction, where the building is raised 47 feet above the plaza and seems impossibly balanced on a bright orange cube. The building’s luminous walls gleam with one-inch-thick stained glass artwork based on an original abstract painting by German artist Johannes Dietz that depicts the process of sugar cane becoming rum. Artists Gabriel and Jacques Loire of Chartes, France, created the stained glass that covers all four sides of the building. When lit, the spectral colors of the stained glass suggest a gleaming jewel box.
Bacardi departed the business complex in 2009 to consolidate several local offices into one building in nearby Coral Gables. Instead of selling the iconic property, however, Bacardi conveyed it at much less than its market value to the National YoungArts Foundation. “These buildings represented our home—they helped keep us unified coming out of Cuba,” said Facundo L. Bacardi, chairman of Bacardi Limited, “So we wanted to make sure they ended up with someone who could extend that legacy of community.”