Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, originally completed in 1916, was inspired by the Italian villas along the Mediterranean coast. Conceived as a winter retreat on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, it was decorated with numerous antiques with an emphasis on 15th through early 19th century European decorative arts and furnishings all of which remain intact.  In 2005 the house suffered significant water intrusion and damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

In 2011 Vizcaya Museum and Gardens selected MC Harry Associates as their Architect/Engineer for services related to various improvements to the Museum. The initial task was  to evaluate the main house environmental conditions and recommend alterations that would improve air distribution and introduce a variety of lighting, temperature and humidity controls to further protect invaluable interior finishes, furnishings and artwork.

MCHarry provided the museum with a Report and Recommendations document related to repairs and renovations required to improve the environment for Vizcaya’s museum historic collection throughout the 45,000sf main house museum.  The analysis and studies involved the inspection of multiple HVAC systems; collecting and analyzing data on relative humidity, and temperatures under various conditions; and providing Cost Estimates and Budgetary  Information for various recommended improvements.

A key component of the recommended scope was the design of a new weather-protective glass canopy enclosing the courtyard and the Loggias, Arcades and Galleries that surround it.  The solution is an elegantly understated design that does not compete with the setting’s historic backdrop. Furthermore, it offers a quality of natural light that rivals the original open air courtyard experience without sacrificing critical UV protection. The AE was required to assist the curators in the development of detailed phasing plans that addressed the protection of house artifacts throughout the course of construction.

Other project scope elements involved restoration of exposed gallery roof framing and historic copper gutters, as well as the preservation of selected courtyard art objects. Additionally, a new courtyard landscape design reinterprets the range of native and exotic plant material first introduced in 1916.


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