In the Gardens of Vizcaya

Embracing traditional Italian Renaissance while drumming to the beat of Miami’s cultural verve


Enthused by the Age of Exploration, James Deering, retired millionaire and conservationist, selected the shores along Miami’s Biscayne Bay as the setting for his palatial, European-inspired estate envisioned in 1912. Fascinated by the 15th-century Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, Deering adopted the name Vizcaya to embody his historical mansion and subtropical gardens. After partnering with design director Paul Chalfin, the collaboration began on this once 180-acre masterpiece by scouring Europe for an assemblage of fine furnishings, art and statuary dating back to the 1500s. Now scaled to 50 acres, Vizcaya hosts one of the most celebrated collections of Italian antiquities in America. Designated a historical landmark in 1994, the mansion — encased in coral and adorned with cast-stone columns — features artist Robert Winthrop Chanler’s rare ceiling mural that reflects the aqua hues of an iconic grotto swimming pool as it ingeniously flows to open-air surroundings embraced by the gardens of Vizcaya. Here, dignitaries, celebrities and aficionados alike are drawn back in time to the age of exploration. Landscape architect Diego Suarez combined tinges of 18th-century Italy and traditional Mediterranean elements to style the Formal Garden. While addressing conservation and environmental concerns, he created an orchidarium, maze-like shrubs, and separated botanical spaces into “rooms,” each serving its own individual purpose. Keeping Deering’s vision in mind, Suarez designed the gardens to engage and astonish guests. 

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Text by Lauren Czipulis

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