Melis E. Gercek: Miami as Text 2022

Photograph taken by Luna|| CC by 4.0

Melis Eda Gercek is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Florida International University. Her interest in mental health and the well-being of humans inspires her to become a clinical psychologist. After moving to Miami from Germany, Melis has been introduced to an entire new culture, both Hispanic and American. Her primary hobbies include swimming as she is a lifeguard, here at FIU, and riding her motorcycle. Melis loves traveling, she will be a part of España Study Abroad 2022 and is looking forward to seeing historical and cultural beauty.

Deering Estate as Text

“A hidden gem”

By Melis E. Gercek of FIU at The Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022

I expected this trip to be a visit in a park with protected nature such as plants and trees of different species. However, it is much more than just a forest and nature, it carries an important part of the history of Miami even before it was America. Miami is a very diverse city, and most of the population are not originally from here, it is normal to meet people from foreign countries. We tend to underestimate the importance of this city’s history and how until this very day it is still a big part of us.
 
When I heard Deering Estate the first time, I knew it had some background with Charles Deering but was not aware of the entire history of this place. It used to be a hotel at one of the main roads of Miami named Old Cutler Rd, which is nothing compared to the current Old Cutler, or rather “New Cutler Rd”. The Mediterranean Revival Stone House is now 100 years old and still beautiful from the inside and outside, the building resembles European architecture because of Deering’s inspiration and desire of Barcelona in Sitges, Spain. It was impressive to know that the workers who built the house were Bahamians and even craved Bahamian Art on the medallion ceiling, piles and many more details. Not only the Stone House but also the Richmond Cottage which ended up being used as a light house by Deering himself since he was not given one are historically significant.
We started at the Boast Basin a beautiful dock perfect to land with your boat and a hot spot for manatees to mate. It is incredible how nature can flourish anywhere. The Deering Estate consists of eight different ecosystems coming all together in one place, creating a mesmerizing sight to behold. makes it more fascinating to see it all come together, the Mangroves along with the Tequesta Burial Mound and Cutler Fossil site and Miami Rock Ridge are one of the oldest geological formations that existed for over 10,000 years. We were able to see the tools the Tequesta used to crave, these people were a community that lived on Deering Estate. However, there is not much proof of their existence except what the Tequesta midden has revealed, such as their tools in the mangrove wetland that were used for daily tasks or the burial mound of the Tequesta, a graveyard or rather hill with their buried bodies.

This place was nothing of what I expected, from jumping into Solution Holes to standing under the Cutler Creek Bridge and connecting with the death of the natives that built the history of this beautiful nature, I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful nature and history can be especially when it comes together to tell a fascinating story.

Vizcaya as Text

“A sanctuary of pleasure”

By Melis Gercek of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens“A sanctuary of pleasure” by Melis Gercek of FIU at Vizcaya Musem & Gardens on February 18th, 2022

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens || All photos taken by Melis Gercek (CC by 4.0)

James Deering did not take no for an answer: “If I cannot be in Europe, I am bringing Europe to me” kind of motto is what I perceived from visiting his mansion. His impressive desire of bringing European and more specifically Spanish and Italian and French architecture down to Miami, which at that time was not Miami, building a villa with a four times bigger garden with its own maze, fountain, love corner, and a step away from the ocean, sculptures, and paintings of things he just simply liked and wanted to possess in his “humble aboard”. It is impressive how a human being can take whatever they desire, with crossing many societal restrictions and regulations and simply following your needs. If James wanted an Arc the Triomphe in the walkway to the main entrance he made sure to get one regardless of earning the right to build one with no victory and with that he simply built not just one but two own small versions of an Arc the Triomphe. He had his own rules and made his villa a house of worshipping the party life, smoking, drinking, nudity mostly pronounced male nudity contained in sculptures and paintings led to rumors that questioned his sexuality. From bedrooms with secret entrances to the master bedroom, a love bench in his garden up to a sculpture in the entrance of the God of wine and ecstasy Dionysus, James brought out the concept of pleasure and fun in his property.

A beautiful atrium in his house with no windows but simply the beautiful ocean breeze and sun-rays shining perfectly in a beautiful, flowered atrium with caravels on each compass brought the passion of nature out in him. The details of each sculpture, ceiling and painting are what makes his mansion so special. Such as the writing “J’ai Dit” up when walking the staircase to the bedrooms, he simply wanted visitors to receive the message that he actually “[I have] has spoken”. There was nothing stopping him from having the dream house of pleasure, his kind of sanctuary.

Miami as Text

“Founded by a woman”

By Melis E. Gercek of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022

Miami Downtown || All photos taken by Melis Gercek (CC by 4.0)

Our city comes with a history that is not enough taught to locals. What I mean by that is that this city evolved from the Tequesta, Seminoles, Bahamians, escaped slaves and Northern Settlers but their remains and traces are left scattered, buried, lost, or simply hidden.
It was a massive achievement considering women did not have suffrage that Julia Tuttle was the only woman who founded a city in the US. From a dropped bowl of oranges with its scattered slices and peels, symbolizing the chaos of Miami up to Lummus Park, Miami downtown has a lot of meaningful artworks or historical remains. The oranges are representing Florida, known for its oranges and the scattered slices and peels are described as the chaos in Miami, which can be interpreted in many ways such as the diversity of people and culture, the traffic, its history and many more features that make Miami to Miami. The Lummus Park holds the oldest known house in Miami which once belonged to a German immigrant William Wagner. He was married to a French-Creole immigrant and had children of color with her that faced discrimination back in the 1850s. Wagner was known for inviting hungry Seminoles to his humble abode having a feast with them and thus leading to a beautiful friendship with the Seminoles. He became the mediator between the Northern Settlers and the Seminoles.

A very ironic part of Miami is the courthouse, or rather “The Dade County Courthouse”, Dade was named after Major Francis Langhorne Dade, who was a senior commander who sent out troops during the genocide against indigenous people of this land who were led to an ambush. Even though defeated, his name made it to Miami Dade County. The courthouse, however, has a monument of Henry Flagler who has brought good and bad to Miami, such as railroads but also segregation in Miami.

I am proud to say that I stood on Miami’s Kilometer Zero, the intersection of Miami Avenue and Flagler Streets where the four cardinal points begin from that where it divides the city of Miami into four quadrants. Having had the opportunity of listening to Miami’s history from a priest of the Gesu Church was also a lucky experience, him mentioning indigenous people and the Tequesta and the Spanish. And finally, the Freedom Tower, a building that processed Cuban immigrants. It became the Ellis Island of Cuban immigrants and changed the course of history of Miami. Even today, grandparents of my peers have been processed in this building back in the late 1960s. The architecture of this building is also remarkable, with is Mediterranean Revival which was inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. All these landmarks represent different perspectives of Miami and how much it has evolved.

SOBE as Text

“Eyebrows”

By Melis E. Gercek of FIU on April 1st, 2022

Miami South Beach || All photos taken by Melis Gercek (CC by 4.0)

What would Miami Beach be known for if it was not for the beach you would think?

Discovering that the very own Beach in Miami is not natural is very controversial. I find it more appropriate to call it Miami Mangroves, because this is what mainly kept our land to the ground. Thanks to the Bahamian sand that is being imported annually, we have a beach as we know it now.

South Beach, or rather known as Ocean Beach back in the 18th and 19th century, has been through a metamorphosis. Carl Fisher decided to come down to Miami and start a project with South Beach and Brickell as we know it today. He saw potential between the swamp and all those mangroves, and created a nice place to resort, a vacation destination. He did some business in offering to pay finishing the bridge in return for some land and arranges Bahamians to cut all the mangroves. However, not thinking it through, by cutting the mangroves that part of the land simply washed away, and it led to the demand of importing sand from other places. Fisher ensured his name to be remembered by naming an island after him, known as Fisher Island, which is now occupied by houses worth millions.

Notwithstanding, what makes Miami so unique is its remarkable architecture. From Mediterranean revival, which is a predominant style here in Miami, to MiMo (Miami Modernist) and Art deco (Decorative Arts). Each style distinguishable from their features: Mediterranean revival architecture is characterized by their red tiled roofs, windows in shape of arches or circles and articulated door surrounds; MiMo’s features include extreme curves in their buildings for the purpose of resembling boats and rockets such as a cruise ship like building with lots of windows; however, the most recognizable buildings in south beach are Art deco with their characteristics of taking steel and iron and making them look like nature. These buildings bring out the ocean, and nature very well. These buildings are also very known for their so called “eyebrows” which look like balconies above and under each window or corner but serving the purpose of shade and protection from sun and not actual balconies. Ocean drive, the most known street in south beach consists mostly of Art Deco buildings with their eyebrows, three dots in the middle and very symmetrical characters.

If we were to live in the 90s, you could go to the News Café on Ocean drive, buy a newspaper from all over the world with the latest sport update only past a week and sipping from your huge cup of coffee. Their purpose was to make their customers sit down, drink their coffee, and spend hours reading and enjoying the café’s ambience. It made not just locals and tourists want to stay forever but was also very known for celebrities.

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melis.gercek@icloud.com

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