Photographs by Jeremy Sachs-Michaels

The history of the Bacardi has long been intertwined with the city of Miami. For those who know the lore, Facundo Bacardi distilled the world's first white rum in the 1860s, supposedly inspired by many a night in Miami. Soon after, he founded the Bacardi company in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. As Bacardi expanded production and the company's plans for offices in Cuba fell apart with the start of Fidel Castro's leadership in the early sixties, Bacardi looked to Miami. This time as a home for it's headquarters. 

Built in 1963 by Cuban architect Enrique Gutierrez, the tower, located on a banal stretch of Biscayne Boulevard is a standout landmark. Chad Oppenheim, the head of Oppenheim Architecture + Design, once described it as “elegant with a Modernist look combined with a local flavour” in a 2007 issue of Businessweek.  

The rectangular seven-story structure seems to float on a pedestal with the north and south ends of building facade covered with 28,000 blue and white handpainted tiles – known as azulejos –  designed by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand. Well known for his ceramic works, the tiles were fired in Brazil and hand-numbered by the artist, then installed on-site. The building hints at Guiterrez’s work of the Mexico City headquarters, designed in partnership with the influential German-American architect Mies van der Rohe, but many consider the Miami Building to be Guiterrez’s best work.

In 1973 Bacardi added the second building, the equally stunning Jewel Box is a cantilevered square building designed by Coral Gables architect Ignacio Carrera-Justiz. The Jewel Box got its name from the series of thick hammered stained glass “tapestries” that cover its four sides and are based on an abstract painting by the German artist Johannes Dietz.

Together the two buildings are widely considered one of the city’s most definitive architectural icons – a landmark that embodies the concept of Miami’s tropical modernism and signals a realm of possibilities.  Photographed for guide books, used for TV and movie productions and much, much more the prominence of the campus extends well beyond the city – expanding its icon status to a global scale.

In 2009 Bacardi relocated headquarters to Coral Gables and with the threat of a teardown looming, Miami citizens began to petition for historic status. It was granted by the City of Miami Preservation Board later that year in October. Though despite its landmark status, the building remained vacant until The National YoungArts Foundation purchased the property in 2012.

Working with YoungArts adviser and world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the YoungArts renovated the property’s interiors while preserving the iconic facade. Now it serves a lively multidisciplinary campus hosting showcases, concerts, art shows and a campus residency program.  

YoungArts Foundation
Bacardi Building
2100 Biscayne Blvd.
Midtown, Miami