September 16: totally awesome 80’s flashback

2012/09/16 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1984 the first episode of Miami Vice aired.

One is hard-pressed to name any television program more stylishly concocted and–at least as far as the awesome opening title sequence is concerned–clearly into architecture.  The imagery that accompanies Jan Hammer’s drum-machine-heavy theme features two or three fancy cars, one windsurfer, three bikinis, nine boats, two parrots, and fourteen buildings (they’re only outnumbered by flamingoes–forty-one of them charge at you in the opening scene).  Clearly the buildings are meant to help set the mood for the fashion-centric crime fighting duo, who we can’t name, but we know they had great suits and shoes and were only slightly not cute enough to be in Duran Duran.

Miami Vice was a cop show for the first generation of MTV viewers, a shimmery pastel wonderland in which no earth tones were allowed.  In Vice’s Miami, high fashion and pop culture blended in a whole new kind of accessible glamour.  The cops wore Armani and Hugo Boss suits with T-shirts and shoes without socks.  Rather than crappy factory-scored background music, the producers ponied up big bucks to play Devo, Kate Bush, Tina Turner, Depeche Mode, U2, and the Police during episodes (the Power Station actually guest-starred once during season 2).  Music, crime TV, fashion were whirred in a blender like a strawberry daiquiri.

Architecture was there, too.  The building on which the camera lingers as long as any other shot in the sequence was a new wowie-zowie condo building called the Atlantis by a five-year-old firm called Arquitectonica.  Built in 1982, the Atlantis pinned Arquitectonica squarely in the center of Post-Modernville on the architecture map and thrust it into the living room of thousands and thousands of Americans every night.  Next to the US Capitol dome appearing in so many newscasts, the Atlantis may have been the most communally-viewed building in America during the mid-’80s.  At first glance it’s a pretty conventional glassy rectangle–but then you notice the Po-Mo affectations.  A big red triangle on the top (a “memory” of a pediment, out of context etc.) and a square blown through the middle to reveal a  primary colored playground with hot tub, red spiral stair, and a palm tree.

Since that time the firm has grown globally but, regrettably, gave up on the fun winky snark of Post Modernism and has turned out some pretty bland buildings that are all too conventional in their desire to be stark and edgy and modern and zeitgeisty or whatever.  But just as Po-Mo itself is enjoying a wee Renaissance now, with some pretty spiffy theory-people deciding it’s worth a second look–due to finding something actually worthwhile in its humor, symbolism, color and delight, or perhaps after finding less and less to sniff at in contemporary practice–Arquitectonica deserves another look too.  A revival of old-school Arquitectonica: the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino in Choctaw, US Embassy in Lima, and the Pink House, Miami, would all be as welcome as one more spin through Miami with Don Johnson at the wheel of a Ferrari Testarossa with Frankie Goes to Hollywood turned way, way up.

Image: the stars of the show, what were their names?  Wayfarer and Stubble?


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