Miami is a photographer’s playground. No matter where you aim your camera, you’re likely to capture something beautiful in the Magic City. As a photographer, I’m especially drawn to the art deco architecture of South Beach, the cuisine of Lincoln Road, the graffiti of Wynwood and the tropical scenery that surrounds it all. The one drawback? Getting around can be a pain, especially when you are used to transporting more than 100 pounds of photographic equipment. That can put this photographer’s playground slightly out of reach.
With a little more freedom, I could explore the visual riches of Miami without many of the headaches that come with it. I could dive in to this city camera-first and end the day with some beautiful images. So naturally, I was intrigued when the people at car2go asked me to do just that — behind the wheel of a car2go smart car.
Join me for a trip through South Beach to experience the design, the environment, the food and the history of this incredible little city by the sea.
In South Beach, the only thing more prohibitive than the traffic is the parking. Good luck finding an open spot on Ocean Drive. Even better luck finding a pay lot for less than $20. Moreso, you can forget about finding residential-area street parking without getting a ticket. When I have a shoot in South Beach, transportation is always my first and last concern. And given all of my gear, public transportation is out of the question.
The invitation from car2go immediately addressed each of my concerns. I can pick it up in one location, load it with my gear, keep it for as long as I need it and drop it off in another location. There are car2go-approved lots all over the city which pretty much cover the areas in which I work. So there’s a parking spot waiting for me, a place to securely transport and store my gear, and a set of wheels that doesn’t follow a predetermined route.
Photographer’s playground, meet the photographer’s chauffeur.
car2go’s vehicle offering is 100% smart car. They’re accessible by a member card that unlocks the door and prompts the driver for their pin. I hadn’t driven a Smartcar before, so I was a bit concerned that all of my gear would fit. Upon opening the hatch, I was thrilled to see that my nearly-100 pound Pelican 1650 hard case slid right into the trunk space. It fit with room to spare. For reference, this is the kind of case that never makes it through checked bags at the airport without picking up additional fees. The back of a Smart car, however, is no problem.
With that, I was all loaded up and ready to head to my first subject of the day, the incredible Juvia penthouse restaurant at 1111 Lincoln Road.
Juvia Miami – Lincoln Road Penthouse Restaurant
As a photographer, I cannot think of a more rewarding restaurant subject than Juvia Miami. Juvia is a French, Japanese and Peruvian fusion restaurant that features one of the most remarkable restaurant designs in the country. In 2013, Juvia won the James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Restaurant Design. In my opinion, the food is as delicious as the design. The dual focus of design and cuisine is especially relevant to my work as a commercial food and architecture photographer.
Juvia is located in a large penthouse on the 9th floor at 1111 Lincoln Road, overlooking South Beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. It is the design craftwork of architect Alejandro Barrios-Carrero, whose emphasis on modernism and tropicality are apparent throughout. Juvia features a lush green wall by French botanist Patrick Blanc, a wrap-around vertical garden that thrives in the hot, humid environment of Miami Beach.
Beyond the food and architecture, Juvia is also celebrated for its breathtaking view of South Beach. The indoor section features floor-to-ceiling glass on each exterior wall, while the outdoor patio features a retractable roof for an open, uncompromised view of the city by the sea.
Juvia’s is championed by executive chef Sunny Oh, whose fusion of French, Japanese and Peruvian influences yields a menu of dynamic, progressive dishes. Above, Juvia’s Causa Croquette comprises tuna, red onion, cilantro, and aji amarillo aioli in an architectural presentation.
The Japanese influences are everywhere in Juvia’s menu, especially this Hamachi Espuma which features yellowtail, a yozu kosho espuma and micro cilantro at its peak.
I photographed four dishes during my session at Juvia, each a rich culinary experience of its own. A visit to Juvia is about a lot more than food, it is a distinctive Miami experience that encompasses design and nature in a stunning panorama. Miami locals and visitors can find Juvia on the Northeast corner of Lincoln and Lennox in South Beach. It shares an address with the next stop on my photo tour, the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage.
Juvia Miami | Gallery
1111 Lincoln Road Parking Garage by Herzog and de Meuron
You’re looking at the world’s most beautiful parking garage. The 1111 Lincoln Road Parking Garage by Herzog and de Meuron was completed in 2010 to resounding acclaim. It is one of my most favorite structures in the state of Florida, and one of the most remarkable architectural works of this decade. It features parking for 300 vehicles, restaurants and retail at its base and additional retail within the parking levels. It’s a complete re-imagination of what a parking garage can be, and it reflects the spirit of invention that abounds in Miami.
Inside and out, every angle and every line of 1111 Lincoln Road is carefully conceived. As you make your way through the building, each perspective yields a different visual experience. Despite this variation, Herzog and de Meuron were careful to provide clear wayfinding tools to guide visitors throughout the building. Navigation is easy, but it’s hard to ignore the urge to stop and get lost in the geometric scenery.
1111 Lincoln Road isn’t only adored for its architecture, but the vehicles that park there. The lot is a museum of sorts for the exotic cars that park there organically. You’ll see just about every make of luxury car you can imagine when driving through the garage, like Ferraris, Porsches and the above Lamborghini with custom body paneling.
Compared to the exotic vehicles in the garage, my car2go wasn’t intimidated. They say it’s the size of the fight in the dog, and this smart car is one feisty terrier. It was my first time visiting the garage as a driver, not a pedestrian, and it was also the first time I’ve driven the full height of a parking garage just for the experience.
After photographing Juvia and exploring 1111 Lincoln Road, it was time to continue my photographic journey. I loaded up the car2go with my photography gear from Juvia, and you can see here just how much I was able to fit in the smart car. There was room for a huge Pelican case with a couple cameras, six speedlights and two studio lights, a big softbox, reflectors, a tripod and a camera bag with laptop accouterments. Had I broken down that softbox, I could have even welcomed a passenger to join me in the passenger seat. This time, I was on my own.
Exploring South Beach Art Deco
Getting around South Beach can be a challenge, but car2go has navigation built into every smart car in their fleet. For my purposes now, however, I was interested in letting the visuals of Miami guide me. I ignored the navigation and searched for architectural eye candy to photograph. For the afternoon and evening, my focus was on the art deco classics that blanket the landscape.
Between the two great wars of the 20th century, a movement in art and design dominated the popular imagination. Art Deco was a brief yet pronounced period of design that has a signature identity in our visual history. Art Deco buildings are instantly recognizable for their distinct character, and South Beach has the largest collection of this kind of architecture in the world.
Beyond the preservation efforts of Miami Beach to protect these architectural relics, new buildings often have a cultural adherence to South Beach’s identity. Above, a new Walgreens building is inspired by the Streamline Moderne architecture around it. This has been a common effort for architects and clients in Miami Beach, one that I’ve covered as a fan of architecture and a hired gun for architects.
Shape is not the only remarkable factor of these buildings. Light is employed creatively to suggest a new character for these structures at night. The hotels of South Beach take on a vibrant, modern appeal in the evening, fitting well with the nightclub atmosphere around this beach city. As a photographer, this gives me two distinct subjects to photograph. During the day, these shapely art deco buildings are striking within their tropical context. At night, they have an almost extra-human appeal. I don’t know which I enjoy better.
As my day with car2go came to an end, I was amazed at all I was able to see throughout this town. It’s a thrilling experience to just take a day and dive in to the city around you. As a photographer, this is often my job, but today, I did it without many of the hassles I experience in this rich but complicated environment. Thanks for joining along, and thanks to my new friends at car2go for making my life easier on demand.
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Seamus Payne is the founder and publisher of TheCoolist.com and a commercial food, architecture and travel photographer. You can always read more from Seamus here on TheCoolist and you can see his casual work on Instagram @instacoolist.