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Zaha Hadid's 'exoskeleton' tower an instant Miami landmark

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The high-rise honours the legacy of its architect, the late Zaha Hadid, who died in Miami in 2016 at the age of 65. It is her first tower in the Western hemisphere.

MiamiĀ 

IN THE heart of Miami, among the towering skyscrapers that rise above Biscayne Bay, the eye-catching new luxury condo building designed by late star architect Zaha Hadid dominates the skyline.

The unique curved "exoskeleton" design of the One Thousand Museum building has created buzz. The futuristic structure is the only residential space in downtown Miami with a helipad.

The high-rise also honours the legacy of the Iraqi-British architect, who died in Miami in 2016 at the age of 65, when the 62-storey tower was built up to about the eighth floor.

"We felt a big obligation to make sure we got this particular project right, because Miami was her second home. She spent a lot of time here, had a lot of friends," said Chris Lepine, who took over as director of the US$300 million project after her death.

Ms Hadid - sometimes dubbed "Queen of the Curve" for her love of the form - was the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize; she also won two Stirling Prizes, Britain's highest honour for architecture.

Forbes once named her one of the most influential women in the world.

Among her acclaimed projects are Beijing Daxing International Airport and the London Aquatic Centre for the 2012 Olympics.

About six months ago, residents began moving into the Miami building, which has been in the works since 2012.

"We wanted to make sure that we left this landmark of her achievements," Mr Lepine said.

One Thousand Museum - Ms Hadid's first tower in the Western hemisphere - is now the crown jewel of her design firm, which is based in London.

It has 84 units, two pools, a juice bar and the helipad, among other high-end amenities. It is 216 metres tall. In the gym, a swirling tornado spiral staircase snakes up to the spa.

The penthouses offer stunning views of the park surrounding the Perez Art Museum Miami, the bay and then out to the Miami Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

The structure's signature curves stand out among the traditional linear buildings near One Thousand Museum.

Mr Lepine, paraphrasing his late boss, said: "There are 360 angles. Why only use one of them? Why only use 90 degrees?"

The building's exoskeleton, as architects call it, flows from the base to the top of its exterior, and sinks at times between the tower's windows.

That structure is not just for aesthetics - it is functional. It is made of white fibreglass-reinforced concrete, and allowed the design team to play with open spaces inside, without the need for columns.

"The exoskeleton for us was a real look at how architecture could be synthesised with structure into an overall very elegant expression," Mr Lepine said.

The flexibility and finishing of the novel material used in this permanent formwork technique allowed for a fluid look.

One Thousand Museum was developed by Louis Birdman, Gilberto Bomeny, Gregg Covin and Kevin Venger.

Prices start in the US$5 million range, and shoot up to US$24 million for units that take up an entire higher floor. Residents hail from about 20 countries. A handful of the units are still on the market.

"It has all the basic elements of a residential tower, but I think configured in a way that's very, very clever, very creative and in a way that sort of stands out," Mr Lepine said. AFP