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Monday, January 24, 2011

Have Your Wedding at This Parking Garage in Miami Beach

A Miami Beach Event Space. Parking Space, Too.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — For her wedding over the weekend, Nina Johnson had worked through a predictable checklist of locations in town: hotel ballrooms, restaurant halls and catering outfits.

In the end, though, she opted for the most glamorous, upscale and stylish setting she could find — a parking garage.

“When we saw it, we were in total awe,” said Ms. Johnson, 26, an art gallery director. “It’s breathtaking.”

Parking garages, the grim afterthought of American design, call to mind many words. (Rats. Beer cans. Unidentifiable smells.) Breathtaking is not usually among them.

Yet here in Miami Beach, whose aesthetic is equal parts bulging biceps and fluorescent pink, 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 in the center of the city.

They are clamoring to use it for wine tastings, dinner parties and even yoga classes. Or taking self-guided tours, snapping photographs and, at times, just gawking.

Created by a colorful Miami developer and a world-renowned architecture firm, it appears to be an entirely new form: a piece of carchitecture that resembles a gigantic loft apartment, with exaggerated ceiling heights, wide-open 360-degree views and no exterior walls. The structure, 1111 Lincoln Road, is so distinctive that Ms. Johnson put its image on her 230 wedding invitations.

It is, in many ways, an ode to Miami’s flashy automobile culture. Rather than seeking to hide cars, as garages have done for decades, it openly celebrates them.

While car enthusiasts rejoiced, eager to showcase their Aston Martins and Rolls-Royces, something unexpected happened. Ordinary people, many from far beyond Miami, came too — with no intention of parking there.

“I went to the top and worked my way down,” said Peter Lampen, an architect who traveled 1,200 miles from New Jersey to see the seven-story garage.

Ben Traves, a graduate student, has taken so many photographs of the building that security guards have shooed him out. “I am just really drawn to it,” he confessed the other day as he toted his camera around the structure.

The garage has an unlikely back story. Its developer, a contemporary art collector named Robert Wennett, bought the property in 2005, inheriting a drab-looking bank office and an unremarkable parking lot at the corner of two well-known boulevards, Lincoln and Alton Roads.

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