Tuesday October 30, 2007

Miami Skylift

Miami Skylift

The Miami Skylift, which, when it opens, will take people on a 15-minute, $15 dollar, 500-foot high tethered balloon “ride” in Bayfront Park. (Here is the rendering of the balloon in operation, and here is the discussion of whether there’ll be anything worth looking up there.) It’s opening in “Fall 2007,” which means “sometime soon, we really don’t know.” Seems like something worth trying once. But I was interested to learn that there is a degree of controversy about the location, the Mildred and Claude Pepper Fountain, designed by the Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi in the late 80s as part of a reworking of Bayfront Park. Michael Lewis laments the decision to shut down the fountain, and provides some history:

Selling the city’s front door to a carnival ride so that the Bayfront Park Management Trust can collect $270,000 a year rent plus a share of ticket and advertising revenues to support the park’s operations reinforces Miami’s pennywise, pound-foolish history. . . .

Designed by world-famous sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, the turbulent eye-catcher offered a fantastic computerized show of water plumes — until the city discovered that while it could afford to build the fountain, it hadn’t figured on the cost to operate it, a failure repeated at the nearby Carnival Center for the Performing Arts 15 years later. . . .

To keep water flowing day and night, the trust was told, would cost $544,000 a year, $350,000 more than the total of park revenue from rentals and the paltry $50,000 the chintzy city itself was willing to provide. Even to run the fountain just four hours a day, the trust was told, would cost $61,000 more than the trust could amass. . . .

To save $61,000 a year, the city destroyed the memorial to Claude Pepper, a giant who served Miami for more than 40 years in Congress. It ruined the $20 million Bayfront Park plan by design genius Isamu Noguchi to create a waterfront focal point.

Now the hulk is being commercialized and carnivalized.

Here is a photo of the fountain from the park’s website, obviously in its less glorious, more recent days. (Also, note word: ‘carnivalized’.)

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  1. DJ_Kremlin    Tue Oct 30, 09:37 AM #  

    I’ll ride it. Once. Maybe.
    Okay, twice. Once during the day, once at night. Hope they let me take my tripod.

  2. Chris    Tue Oct 30, 11:05 AM #  

    When I found out the park had been designed by Noguchi, I was thoroughly impressed by the city. When I saw the balloon ride was going to take off from the fountain, I was annoyed but thought (by some clever design) that the found would still be running. This is just pathetic.

    And over half a million dollars to keep a fountain running? Are they serious? Are they using Fiji Water?

  3. Johnny R.    Wed Oct 31, 11:09 AM #  

    I also was very impressed when I found out the park had been designed by Noguchi. Unfortunately, the idiots that run the local government in Miami dont know how to value anything. Mr. Noguchi has designed many spaces around the United States. This would have been the perfect example to stand out and have our own sort of world class park/space. However, since they can’t seem to find enough money to maintain the park or the fountain why not pave it over and build condos?? It’s just sad that this is how local government treats art, parks, and public space in Miami. What a shame!

  4. DJ_Kremlin    Wed Oct 31, 01:27 PM #  

    So here’s a question… Why is it that local government and really the locals them selves don’t give two shits about anything Artistic?

    Is it because of the culture?

  5. BNA    Sat Nov 3, 12:36 AM #  

    I WILL NEVER NEVER Ride This monstrosity!!!! NEVER!!
    How can they DESTROY this Awesome Work of ART!!???
    & Turn It INTO some Stupid Balloon Ride!
    Sooo What it cost a lot of money 2 run They Still should of not Touched IT!!!!!! They should have just Fixed it up some, So it Doesent use That much Energy 2 run,,………..
    Ive seen it (When i was 6) Around 1991 Its Really cool i am going down 2 miami this year I hope it is Still there,,,…. & I Hope it still shoots really high up in the air..
    I havent seen it since My Family Evacuated From Hurricane Andrew..
    Soo i am hoping for the best…