A Look Inside The Freedom Tower

December 18, 2017

By Pola Bunster

To the outside eye, Miami’s landscape is a collage of crystal waters, tan sand, palm trees, and colorful architecture–but in reality, the many tides of cultural and paradigm shifts have chiseled themselves into facades that have become synonymous with The Magic City’s streets. From century-old cottages built of local pine and the Mediterranean revival trends from the early 20th century, to the sweeping angles of MiMo, Miami’s architectural styles are as vibrant as the city itself.

Singling out a historical landmark representative of more than just a period of design, The Freedom Tower along Biscayne Boulevard’s Downtown corridor. What was once the tallest building in Miami, the tower was designed by the firm of Schultze & Weaver, the same minds behind The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel–an aesthetic that is easily recognizable in the grand scheme of things.

Originally completed in 1925 (pre-University of Miami, in case you needed some reference), it was the headquarters and printing facility for The Miami News . After the publication moved to a new location on the Miami River and Miami’s skyline began to climb higher than the revival-style tower, the federal government turned it to public use. Case in point: as an entry point to process the influx of Cuban refugees in the 1960s–hence the name “The Freedom Tower.”

Over the years, it passed from federal to private hands for multiple uses, and in 1997 was transformed into a museum for Cuban refugees of the Communist regime, complete with galleries, museum space and all. Eventually, the building passed into the hands of Miami-Dade College by developer donation, which is where the landmark’s story was jettisoned into limitless use.

Its first floor still serves as a museum (although currently under restoration), and the remaining floors house some of Miami’s most influential and innovative creative collectives. Inside the walls lies the headquarters of well-known names like Miami Film Festival whose March festival draws thousands from around the world and MDC Live Arts rounding off the cultural center.

But what should really be on your radar when it comes to this Downtown historical gem? Miami-Dade College’s Museum of Arts + Design. It’s more than just a 15,000 square foot exhibition space on the second floor, this year, the museum will be acting as a catalyst for cultural conversation with their on-going “Living Together” exhibition which reaches from inside their galleries to interactive installations across the city, all in hopes of bringing all walks of life together and open the doors to authentic connection regardless of who we are and where we’re from. What they have planned for Miami is next level, and since The Freedom Tower represents a preservation of change, it only makes sense that the source of this conscious shift is pouring from within its walls.