Miami Icons: The Miami Tower, Colorful Chameleon of the Skyline

Miami_Tower-4.jpg
Photo by Karli Evans
San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. St. Louis has the Arch. Las Vegas has its retro welcome sign. It seems like every city has an iconic structure to represent itself to the rest of the world. Every city but Miami, that is. The Magic City is full of architectural gems, and maybe that's why no one building has come to define it. But that's left this town without a symbol of its own. In our Miami Icons series, we're aiming to fix that. Today, writer Travis Cohen argues that the Miami Tower's changing colors and eye-catching design make it the perfect symbol for the city at large.

When you think of Downtown Miami, there's no shortage of images that your mind might conjure up. From the American Airlines Arena to the big, bold letters of "BAYSIDE" to wandering crackheads meandering between the shadows and the bright purple lights that glow along the underside of the bridge to the port of Miami, Downtown is an undeniably interesting arrangement of strange layers of sights and sounds and scenery. But more than anything, what you can't help but see when you hold Downtown in your mind's eye is that splendid, sprawling skyline.

It's a majestic sight, that skyline, and whether you take it in from the arching lanes of the Julia Tuttle or the seawalls of Watson Island, it's a vista composed of some truly stunning pieces of architecture. Some of them are gaudy and gauche, some are decorated with gigantic gyrating strippers made of light, some are classical stone monoliths of Roosevelt's America, and some are resplendently modern megastructures with skins of glass. And while nearly every one of these buildings are beautiful in their own right, not a one can claim to be more iconically Miami than the old CenTrust Savings and Loan building at 100 SE Second Street, better known today as the Miami Tower.

Designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei, the Tower is arguably most well known for its multi-colored LED light system. Every night, the city is treated to a 47-story light show of smoothly transitioning hues that range from tropical combinations of blue and green and yellow to Miami Heat-centric reds and oranges on game nights. It's massively unsubtle, majestically unique, and unavoidably over the top and impossible to ignore. Basically, those lights scream Miami at full volume every single night.

But the design building itself doesn't get nearly enough credit for how aesthetically pleasing and creative it is. The soaring mass of black and white bars that make up the building's shell is just as beautiful when lit by sun as it is when it glows under the LEDs at night, largely because of the contrasting curves of the three-tiered sides of the Tower and the sharp squared edges on the opposing sides.

And if you have a chance to wander through the building, you'll find another wonderful aspect of how Miami it is. From the gilded elevators to the marble encased skylobby on the 11th floor to the glimmering surfaces of nearly any random hallway between office spaces, the Miami Tower is utterly opulent -- in many cases tastefully so, in some cases, not so much.

But what makes the Miami Tower such a completely iconic landmark for this city is how much screen time the building has gotten over the years, and continues to get to this day. From flyover shots on TNT and ESPN between quarters of Miami Heat home games, to being one of the focal points in the opening credits of Miami Vice (which earned it the moniker of "The Miami Vice Tower" for many years), to featuring prominently in the landscape of Grand Theft Auto Vice City, the Miami Tower is quite likely the single-most recognizable building in the city, and will likely continue to hold that honor until the day they cut the lights when this town goes underwater.

Previous Icons:
The Colony Hotel, Ocean Drive's Most Famous Art Deco Building
The Freedom Tower Welcomed Cubans to America

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Location Info

Map

Miami Tower

100 SE 2nd St., Miami, FL

Category: General


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20 comments
Brandon F. Rodriguez
Brandon F. Rodriguez

Used to be BoA building; it's been Miami Tower for a while now. I spent close to a year working at the Miami Tower and I loved it. On the nights that I'd stay late, I'd step out to the huge terrace and relax on a seat while the building did its usual show.

YouAndMe
YouAndMe

Can someone lend me $5,000 please?

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

I thought it was Bank of America building

Brad Knoefler
Brad Knoefler

And it doesn't look like a giant penis (like another planned tower)

Ron Schwartz
Ron Schwartz

This is the best building in the world to work in. It was where I had my first real job after college on the 18th Floor overlooking Biscayne bay and the Miami River....It is and will always be the Centrust Bank Building to me...

jonespinga
jonespinga

miami's iconic structures are art deco buildings on south beach. no brainer. 

Dirk DeSouza
Dirk DeSouza

I completely agree. And besides the Intercontinental's video wall of the dancing girl (zoinks), it boggles me that no other buildings have followed suit with iconic, thematic light shows.

Brad Beaty
Brad Beaty

Coral castle. It gives a perfect representation of Miami. A crazy guy with a Napoleon complex trying to impress a women that he'll never get.

Jose Martinez
Jose Martinez

So what's it going to be? Miami Tower, Freedom Tower, or both?

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