At high-glam garage, the parking’s secondary

1111 Lincoln Road has among other things hosted a “Sex and the City 2’’ party. 1111 Lincoln Road has among other things hosted a “Sex and the City 2’’ party. (Mbeach1 via Bloomberg News)
New York Times / January 24, 2011

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — For her wedding, Nina Johnson worked through a predictable checklist: hotel ballrooms, restaurant halls, and catering outfits. In the end, though, she opted for the most glamorous setting she could find: a parking garage.

“When we saw it, we were in total awe,’’ said Johnson, 26, an art gallery director.

In Miami Beach, bridal couples, bar mitzvah boys, and charity-event hosts are flocking to what seems like the unimaginable marriage of high-end architecture and car storage: a $65 million parking garage. They are clamoring to use it for wine tastings, dinner parties, and yoga classes.

Created by a Miami developer and a renowned architecture firm, it appears to be an entirely new form: carchitecture that resembles a gigantic loft apartment, with exaggerated ceiling heights, wide-open 360-degree views, and no exterior walls.

Car enthusiasts rejoiced, eager to showcase their Aston Martins, but the unexpected happened. Ordinary people came, with no intention of parking. Ben Traves, a student, took so many photos guards shoo him out. “I am just really drawn to it,’’ he confessed.

The garage, at 1111 Lincoln Road, has an unlikely story. Its developer, art collector Robert Wennett, bought the property in 2005, inheriting a drab bank office and parking lot at the end of the pedestrianized Lincoln Road Mall. Quirky zoning rules made it profitable to build a large garage — not everyone’s vision of a grand gateway to the lively streets nearby.

Wennett aimed high, interviewing top architects. He settled on Herzog & de Meuron, a Swiss firm known for turning a London power station into the Tate Modern gallery and designing the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing. “This is not a parking garage,’’ Wennett said. “It’s really a civic space.’’ And a private home: Wennett built himself a penthouse.

The structure “sets a new bar for what parking garages could and should be,’’ said Cathy Leff, director of the Wolfsonian design museum.

Not all reviews are fawning.

“It says something about the aesthetic down here,’’ said Lisa Gottlieb, a film professor. “I guess this is what we bring to the table — a fancy parking garage.’’