An historic landmark of Coconut Grove, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a splendid place to explore the treasured home that was once an opulent private hideaway surrounded by a pioneer wilderness, far from the civilization that inspired it’s architecture. When asked to help reconstruct a feature of the formal gardens it was a chance to test all I know about building for longevity in the intense weather environment of South Florida. The job was in fact a re-due of some other woodworking business that installed what looked like a solid piece of trellis but for some small but fatal shortcoming, i.e. the choice of wood and wrong joinery, as seen in the picture, the rainwater eventually seeped into minute crevasses and saturated the wood, leading to rot in just a couple of years. I recommended mahogany to the curator and project manager for it’s natural rot and insect resistance and the use of a latex solid exterior stain to seal and color the pieces that made up the curved, radial symmetry, knowing the difficulty of re-coating years down the line and how stain will not chip off like paint tends to do eventually. I wanted this work, my small part of this old, Italian villa, to last a century and beyond.
With over 400 board foot of African mahogany and what seemed to me as many man hours, these four, wood-spoke, domed, turret caps were an exercise in geometric precision and less visibly but no less important, a fortress against hurricane winds, UV degradation and water/fungi erosion.