Hey readers, I am Balazs Kornis a sophomore finance major at Florida International University. I am planning on becoming an Investment Banker after graduating. I was born and raised in Hungary, in 2018 I moved to Maine to finish my high-school studies in the United States. I came to Miami 1,5 years ago to study at FIU and I immediately became fascinated with the cities diverse culture, a big difference from Maine. Once I saw the class on instagram stories of people it immediately caught my interest. Additionally I love traveling and trying the different types of foods, which in Miami there is no shortage of. I am also really interested in aviation and I would like to get my private pilot license and take a look at Miami form above.
Downtown as Text
“Downtown as a History Lesson”
By Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at Downtown, 22 January 2021.
Downtown Miami today is a busy places home to many business, high-rise buildings, government building and cultural places. However next to all of this are buildings, monuments, statues and even the remnants of a structure used for rituals by the original inhabitants of the Miami area.
Before the Spanish led by Ponce De Leon came to Miami in 1513, it was inhabited by the Tequestas who we know very little about, since most of them got wiped out by small pox they caught from the settlers. However they did leave somethings behinds. Most notably the Miami circle which is a remenats of a ritual place, still used by other Native American tribes today. They also left burial mounds along the mouth of the Miami River which today has been replaced with high-rise building during the construction of which many interesting archeological items got discovered.
Second big change in Miamis history happened after the United states moved into Florida and chased the Seminoles and Miccosukee into the Everglades. A man named William English brought his slaves to the Miami area, one of their houses can be still seen today in Lummus Park. Next to this house is the house William Wagner who came to Miami to be able to live with his Creole wife. Another important person in this time period was Julia Tuttle first of many important women in the history of the city. She and Mary Brickell another woman whose mausoleum is locates in Brickell park, persuaded Henry Flagler to bring the railroad down to Miami by sending him a box of fresh oranges after all the citrus up north perished in a freeze. This eventually led to the incorporation of the City of Miami and the creation of Overtown where they segregated the Bahamians who voted for incorporation. Flagler also built roads and canals facilitating the expansion of Miami westward. There is a statue of him commemorating his achievements in-front of the courthouse located in Downtown.
Third big change to downtown came in 1959 when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, which led to mass immigration from Cuba to Miami, to process the Cuban immigrants the Freedom tower was used this tower was built after a church in Sevilla Spain. This tower today represents freedom and hope to the Cubans in Miami. Next to the tower is a statue of a boy carrying a house on his back while walking on crutches, representing the children who their parents sent to Miami alone in-order for them to have a better life. Today the tower is used as museum by Miami-Dade College. Since then many other hispanics came to Miami and made Miami become a vibrant melting pot of cultures
“City of Miami.” City of Miami – Official Website, archive.miamigov.com/home/history.html. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.
Everglades as Text
“The Nature in our Backyard”
By Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at Everglades, 5 February 2021.
I have only lived in Miami for one and half years, before coming here I have heard about the Everglades, but in my mind it was just a barren swamp full of alligators. Right before I landed here in Miami for the first time the plane circled out to west allowing me to see how close the city the swamp really, I could see the lights of the city and then they just stopped there were no lights beyond a line just nature. At that moment I realized how the Everglades is right in Miami’s backyard.
I have went on an airboat tour before in Sawgrass, and drove on the roads crossing the Everglades even at night to listen to the Alligators, but it always felt like I was outside of nature just observing it from far away. When we stepped into the water on our tour at the double Cypress bowl, after the initial shock and confusion, I realized I truly was in nature. This nature exists independently from us besides the occasional sounds of a car driving by it felt like I was in a completely different place. I have never realized how many Cypress trees are there along with all the different kinds of vegetation and the many-many bird species. It was very interesting to listen to Ranger Dylan about all the species of flora and fauna, and also the challenges the Everglades faces in terms of pollution, global warming and Invasive species.
I was a bit disappointed over the lack of animals we saw on our adventure by I understood the unusually wet ending of the wet-season prolonged the higher water levels allowing the animals to spread out more. However seeing the cypress forest with all the smaller types of vegetation like the ferns growing on the trees, it was also interesting to see how the forest just ended and switched into a grassland. Even though we did not see animals besides birds and a couple of small fishes, we knew they were there the Alligator hole was clear evidence there were Alligators nearby. These Alligator holes are place were trees cannot grow because of the Alligators digging into the soil destroying the roots of tress and creating a deeper hole. Near it was also a island like structure which according the professor is where all the snakes live like the venomous Eastern Diamondback and Water Moccasin snakes along with the non venomous invasive Burmese Pythons which almost completely wiped out small mammals in South Florida. At the end of our slough slog we just existed out to the road which seeming just popped out of nowhere.
After our slog we headed to Anhinga Trail where we saw plenty of animals including multiple American Alligators sunbathing right next to the trail with parts of their body poking through the fence allowing us to come super-close to them presenting excellent photo opportunities. In the water there were plenty of waterlilies with birds diving down for fish in-between them presenting a different place compared to the cypress bowl where our slog took place. It was hard to comprehend how diverse the Everglades after it being just a barren swamp in my mind. Further along the trails boardwalk part we saw the Anhinga birds the namesake of the trail, sitting on top of a little structure, the namesake of the trail.
Returning home on the busy turnpike it was hard to comprehend how amazing this unforgettable experience was and how sharp the contrast is between the Everglades and the busy city. I would like to thank Professor Bailey and Ranger Dylan for this amazing opportunity.
South Beach as Text
“Art Deco in Paradise”
By Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at South Beach, February 19 2021.
Living in Miami we take all the art deco buildings in Miami Beach for granted, while others travel here just to see them. I personally like more modern styles of architecture using a lot of glass, however my parents when they visited here were very impressed by it. Many other travelers share their interest in the Art Deco buildings at South beach.
Art Deco is one of the three main architecture styles in Miami Beach, next to Mediterranean revival and Miami Modernist also known as MiMo. It came to the United States and Miami in the 1930s after it was first demonstrated at an expo in Paris. (Encyclopedia Britannica) Unlike other styles like Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco does not try to be like something old but wants to be futuristic looking like a spaceship from early science fiction. Some of the characteristics of Art Deco are clean often rounded shapes, symmetric shapes, two dimensional statues and a lot of lines to make our eyes move around making the space fill bigger than it is. These lines are often also on the terrazzo flooring prominent in Miami beach. Even though the buildings are modern they sometimes use elements from older architecture like ziggurat like rooftops.
The modernism in the buildings can be seen in some of them resembling a radio or jukebox from the time. A good example of this is the Barbizon. Where the rounded shape and the two vertical lines in the middle give it a very futuristic style. Another thing which can be seen on the building is the so-called eyebrows between the floors which are supposed to provide shade to the windows. As many other buildings it has 3 floors, which is because the building code required an elevator for more than 3 floors, and they were very expensive at the time causing most buildings to be only 3 floors. First thing everyone notices at Miami Beach is the ocean which got incorporated in some of the building like the Colony Hotel. The rounded edges somewhat resemble a ship. It has a light blue coloring with darker blue accents, some of which just below the roof resemble a wave patter. The letters on the building have neon lights on the giving it a vibrant glow at night. Neon was a very popular technology back in the 30s. Another great example of Art Deco is the Break Water hotel where the neon was not spared, which we unfortunately were not able to see at night. The building uses a large number of lines showing making our eyes look around and a central tower making us look up another common theme on Art Deco buildings. A bit of an outlier building is the Clevelander Hotel which is an asymmetric L shape with a ground level pool, functioning as a party spot.
Miami beach’s word famous Art Deco architecture is something we should treasure and preserve by utilizing the building and renovating them to satisfy modern demands without destroying the architecture especially on the outside. Someone who has done a lot to preserve the buildings is Barbara Baer Caritman. The City of Miami Beach should honor her and the buildings legacy and work on preserving and keeping Miami beach as a cultural destination.
Encyclopedia Britannica. “Art Deco.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Feb. 2021, http://www.britannica.com/art/Art-Deco.
Deering Estate as Text
By Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at Deering Estate, March 5 2021.
When most people think of Miami they think of the sandy beaches, the skyscrapers and the mix of cultures, however just a couple hundred years ago before the spanish and the British arrived it was very different. The shoreline was full of mangroves instead of sand, most prominent trees were gumbo limbos and pine instead of the coconut palms we are accustomed to today. There was no sight of a big city just the Tequesta tribe living on the narrow strip of solid land.
The Deering Estate which is a natural preserve today can give the visitor a glimpse into what Miami looked like before civilization. It contains multiple different ecosystems like the Hardwood Hammocks, the Pine Rock-lands and the coastal wetlands with mangroves. Besides these its located next to the Biscayne bay aquatic preserve which also has its own ecosystems. One more important thing about the geography area is that it located on the strip of limestone which provides a dry place for humans and animals to live. This limestone cause the estate to be rather elevated compared to other parts of Miami. Limestone is really susceptible to erosion by water causing there to be caves and solution-holes. These solution holes are often filled with water luring animals in and then causing them to be trapped there. This allowed prehistoric predators like the sabertooth tiger to have an easy dinner since unlike the deers or other preys it can climb out.
The most prominent ecosystem on our hike was the hardwood hammocks which was mostly filled by the native gumbo limbo trees. These trees can grow incredible fast and are able to withstand hurricanes much better than non native species. Another interesting plant there were strangler figs which grow onto existing trees and end up strangling them leaving just a dead stump in the middle. Gumbo Limbos are actually immune to these because of their easily pealing bark strengthening their case of being perfectly adopted to this environment. These Hardwood Hammocks provide a lot of shade making this the perfect place for the early inhabitants of the area to live, there was area at the edge of the mangrove and the Hammocks were there were countless shell tools left behind by the Tequesta. They did not know how to use metals making shell tools their only option.
Beside the Hammocks the shoreline is inhabited by semi flooded mangrove forest. These mangroves are the original shoreline of Southeast Florida instead of the sandy beaches we see today. The Mangrove trees today became a rarity, which is a problem since they can protect the land from erosion and hurricane damage much better than the sandy beaches do. They also contain a mix of fresh and saltwater due to the meeting of the ocean and creeks like cutler creek. This makes the mangroves have a mix of aquatic life. One unnatural but interesting thing in the mangroves was the wreck of a small stolen plane, which was never reported likely because it was used by cocaine smugglers. On the other side of the mangroves is the Biscayne bay home to many species of bird, fish, sea mammals and many other aquatic creatures. We were able to see a group of Manatees near the jetty at the built out part of the estate.
The third ecological area is the Pine Rock lands which looked very “unMiami” in my opinion. It is a dry rocky are with towering pine trees with very little vegetation besides them. It is home to gopher tortoises which are native to the area. It was located on a higher elevation explaining the lack of water retention. It was a very interesting side of South Florida. When you hike there make sure to remember to look out for Poison Ivy.
The Deering estate is really great place to discover how Miami really looked like before the first colonizers arrived. The historic houses also give an insight into how the rich lived at the start of the 20th century. It is an experience I recommend to everyone who likes nature and hiking. They have really good pricing for student yearly passes also. Besides hiking the lawn and the jetties near the houses are a nice places to relax and have a picnic.
Vizcaya as Text
”Miami Life Before it was Cool”
Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, March 19 2021.
The Vizcaya villa was owned and built by James Deering the brother of Charles Deering who owned the Deering Estate. However he was rather different in his lifestyle and choice of housing. He lived a rather hedonistic lifestyle, in a highly decorated villa, with a garden which seems like a mini version of the gardens found in castles like Versailles in France or Schönbrunn in Austria, the latter of which I have visited in the past. With his hedonistic lifestyle he essentially lived the way Miami does now with the flashy cars and constant party before there really was a Miami.
This hedonism was already noticeable the second I drove through the gates on the little road leading to the parking lot feeling like the entrance to a mansion separated from the outside world. At the entrance there are two statues made of locally mined limestone, they were of Ponce De Leon the first Spaniard to arrive in Florida and Vizcaya the name sake of the villa who was a fictional person living in the area during early Spanish colonization. After the statues directly through the gate next to the inclined road leading to the house there were fountains on each side, in the Arabic style where only a little flowing water is used to make it look like mostly still water but still prevent algae. The trench used to mine the limestone from can also be seen where the original plan was to create a moat, but the porousness of the stone did not allow it. This moat plan is one of many “why not?” extravagant elements of the estate.
The house is built in a Mediterranean revival style in a square shape with a courtyard in the middle which is now covered with a glass roof but was not during Deering’s time. The roof of the house features red tiles just like in Spain or Italy. On the inside the house has many different European styles of decoration like Roman, Rococo or Baroque. After entering there was immediately a wine bath with a statue of Dyonesus the god of wine and ecstasy, basically the embodiment of modern Miami showing Deering lived the Miami lifestyle before it was a thing. The courtyard has many plants and decorations interesting of which were the caravelles in different forms either made from metal as a fountain decoration or a model just hanging from the ceiling. The caravelle was a type of ship used by the Spanish explorers. Some of the original windows in the Villa had stained glass like in Europe. Sadly we did not get to see the upstairs part due to renovations. Downstairs each room had its own style sometimes from a mix of styles or just one. One of the first rooms we visited had a cassette style ceiling with matching tiles below it circle under circle and square under square. Besides all the painting statues an interesting thing was a telephone room, which was a really rare addition to houses at the time. In another room there was an organ with a picture of Saint Mary on it, the only christian image I have seen in the house. The interesting thing about it was that it was cut in the middle to allow it to open up for tuning the organ. Besides art another hedonistic part was his serving and food prep room which had a cork wood floor so Deering would not hear the servants footsteps in the morning. It also had a dumb waiter allowing quick transport of food from the kitchen to the serving room. Deering also had a simple intercom system installed to allow simple communication with other parts of the house. On the outside of the house opening from the lower area was a pool to add to the extravagance. Outside the housing on the seafront there is a stone barge with decorations which serves as a wave breaker to protect the yacht which was parked behind it.
Besides the house there is extravagant garden giving more to the European castle style. One of the entrances to the garden area is an Arch de Triumph like the one in Paris. Most likely put there on a why not basis. It like many other things in the garden is made of limestone. The garden features these secret areas which allowed lovers to meet in secrecy perhaps even in Deering since there are rumors that he was gay. The garden features multiple little cave like hole some of which had shells decorating its roofs. The garden also had many ponds and fountains and also a mini maze further adding to it being a mini European castle garden. At the back end of the garden was a Venetian bridge like structure next to a canal with a dock like the ones in Venice. There was a secret door on the structure which was to hide the alcohol smuggled through the channel from the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
Overall the Vizcaya Villa and Garden are a really pretty places with countless pieces of art. The whole place and the ideas of James Deering while building the Villa is aligned with the hedonistic lifestyle people in Miami live today. So at the end of the day he lived the Miami life before it was cool.
Margulies as Text
“Where Wynwood Started”
Balazs Kornis of Florida International University at The Margulies Collection, Miami, FL April 16 2021.
Everyone in Miami knows that Wynwood is the place to go for modern art. There is Wynwood Walls with its gigantic wall paintings and plenty of street art all over the neighborhood. However many people do not know that before most of that came the Margulies Collection opened bringing modern art to Miami. This Collection was opened by Mr. Margulies who actually just collected this art as a hobby. Today the museum features hundreds of pieces from his collection with a small entry free going entirely to charity and no fee for us students. The collection features every-type of art out there ranging from creatively displayed short movies to paintings, photographs, sculptures to even an installation using spices to add smell to the picture.
Since our Professor John Bailly is an artist himself he was able to arrange us a tour of the collection by Mr. Margulies himself. It was really interesting to hear his knowledge on the pieces there and modern art in general. Something which really stuck with me was him telling us that modern art for the most part does not always mean something and what it means to you is entirely dependent on your perspective on the piece. When entering the place some of the art we saw seemed rather random. One of those pieces was a lot of current and older flags from the Indopacific region. However what was really interesting about them that originally it was attached to a colony of ants which dug tunnels throughout the flags adding something extra to it. In another area there were short movies two of which in little rooms with a projector one of them showing the daily life of four different people side-by side in San Francisco allowing people to identify with the one closest to their life. In the other small rooms there was a short animated film on national anthem kneeling movement in the NFL in response to police brutality. Between those two rooms there was a very interesting piece made of a bunch of old small TV’s facing away from the door way by the artists request. It featured a bunch of videos of animals, to me it seemed peaceful and very interesting. There were also some abstract sculptures near that area which really did not make any sense, but according to Mr. Margulies one artist said that with abstract if you know what you are doing you are doing it wrong. In another part of the warehouse there was a elevator door which periodically opened to show a different group of people in this virtual elevator. There was also an interesting collection of photos of just average people and mundane places showing the lives of people around the world. Another interesting part was the Geheimnis der Farne and other collections by Anselm Kiefer, which very loosely related to the Holocaust and incorporated the poems of a victim of it. His other art pieces like the books with wings were also very interesting as well. Another interesting piece was a circle made of rocks by a British artists who often goes out on hikes and makes these in nature and most of the times no-one notices it is there. I also liked the super hero retirement home piece showing how superheroes would look like once they get old, it was really funny giving a contrast to some of the more dreary pieces. The most unique piece to me was a collection of hanging sacks with each of them having a different spice providing a smell element to the piece, which is something I have not encountered before.
Overall The Margulies Collection was a really interesting place which a lot of people do not know about while it is in the middle of Miami right next to the Art district. The collection was very diverse and interesting using all sorts of art forms both conventional and unconventional. I think everyone should visit, for students it is free and for others it is a small fee going to charity.