Quynh T Nga Chung (Elsa): Miami as Text 2022

Xin chào!

Hello from Vietnam
Photo by Yen Dang // CC by 4.0

Elsa Chung is an international student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She is currently a senior pursuing a double-major degree in International Business and Marketing. Coming to the U.S. from the other side of the globe, she was beyond excited, yet nervous, to begin her new journey as a university student four years ago. Years passed, Elsa now finds herself to grow into a much more independent and matured girl, which she is really proud of, after being far away from home. 

Moreover, she is a true advocate of self-love and always seeks to spread positivity. In her free time, you will find her either dancing to K-pop songs or hanging out with friends. On top of that, Elsa’s pleasurable pastime is traveling and exploring as many fascinating sites as possible throughout the nation or across the world. With that being said, you wouldn’t be surprised seeing her taking pictures of every single thing on the go. For her, photos serve to be a precious remembrance of all expeditions. 

Photos by Elsa Chung // CC by 4.0

” Not Just a Place of Living ”

By Elsa Chung of FIU at Deering Estate on 28 January 2022

My very first outdoor lecture was held at the mesmerizing Deering Estate on a beautiful Friday morning with Professor John Bailly alongside my Honors fellow classmates. Thankfully, the weather was super nice followed by a chilling breeze and not-so-sunny ambience. What a perfect day to get outside and explore this alluring site – a precious gem of South Miami.

Remarkably listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Deering Estate is a cultural property and historic venue in preservation of Charles Deering’s wealthy living life. We first stopped at Richmond Cottage and had a glimpse of this known-to-be one of the oldest wooden structure houses in Miami Dade. What impressed me most about this ancient house was certainly the vast display of liquors and wine collection in the mysterious basement.

Continuing our way to the Boat Basin, I couldn’t help falling in love with the spectacular scenery where the freshwater extends far into the bay surrounded by the radiant greenness of various trees and lawn. All of these natural elements at once created a sense of calmness and tranquility all over my soul. To my excitement, there came a playful splash of a huge sea creature named manatee, which was my first time hearing its name and seeing part of its presence, under the water. Undoubtedly, this couldn’t be a more perfect spot to enjoy a breathtaking view of the sunrise or sunset.

An outdoor lecture is not going to be that fun if not involving some sort of physical activity. We were led to a hiking tour deep into the Nature Preserve. As a person rarely gets a chance to be exposed to native plants and organisms, it was a one-of-a-kind experience for me to fully immerse myself in such a diverse wildlife. Some of the highlights of the hike were the prevalent mangroves community, the sharp shells that the Tequestra civilization used as a daily tool for their livings or the habitat for the moisture-loving plants called the solution holes,…  

Although it was only a short get-away from the usual classroom, I gained a handful of insights and real-time experiences throughout the excursion. The Deering Estate is not just a place of living but it proves to be a harmonious blend of historic civilization, diverse flora, fauna and distinct ecosystems. If I had a chance to come back here, kayaking in the Chicken Key is absolutely what I’m looking forward to. 

Photos by Elsa Chung // CC by 4.0

“An Everlasting Inheritance”

By Elsa Chung of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on 18 February 2022

To be honest, it was not until this third time of visiting Vizcaya that I actually gained some informative insights about this extravagant National Historic Landmark – a jewel that is known to be “Miami’s home”. The fact that this enormous estate was built by the wealthiest person in Miami at that time (1917), James Deering, with more than 1,000 builders already proves how magnificent and splendid the Villa is. The property solely immerses itself in the surrounding subtropical forest and the charming shores of Biscayne Bay. 

Upon arrival, we gathered around the statue of Ponce de Leon – a significant Spaniard who claimed “La Florida” for Spain. Deering’s intention for putting the sculpture right at the entrance was to indicate his desire of bringing Europe to the U.S. – as inspired by Italian and Mediterranean architectural designs. Since this is a deluxe heritage, we all pretended to be upper-class visitors and walked powerfully to establish a dramatic vibe when entering. 

 Stepping onto the patio (the central part), I caught myself in awe of the glass roof above alongside the greenness’s context of tropical flora. Despite being indoors, isn’t it amazing how we can feel a strong sense of connection between Mother Nature and classical compositions? Even more amusing is that you can literally catch wonderful sights of caravels at every direction you pivot while standing exactly in the center. Hence, it is not exaggerating to presume that Spanish caravel is Deering’s standard. 

The Main House’s interiors are ideal representations of historical remembrance and European antiques. It consists of all functional rooms such as reception, library, kitchen,music room, living room, dining room,… with most of the objects actually obtained from Europe (Italy, France) and put together into newly creative arrangements by the artists. Because Deering wanted all of the most modern and advanced elements in his residency, the house is well-equipped with telephone, elevators, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, heating and ventilation systems… Therefore, any visitor could easily encounter a great harmony of modernity, aesthetics, comfort, and luxury. 

Built in the 20th century, Vizcaya is an optimal icon of not only a remarkably preserved historical site, but also a valuable home to Mediterranean’s art collections and iconic designs. Nowadays, Vizcaya is viewed as a serene oasis comprising James Deering’s lavish property and miraculous gardens alongside Biscayne’s spectacular shoreline. For me, it is truly a delightful European indulgence in an endearing American context.

Photos by Elsa Chung // CC by 4.0

“3D MIAMI: Diverse, Dynamic & Dazzling”

By Elsa Chung of FIU at Downtown Miami on 11 March 2022

Despite being around Downtown Miami many times, this was my first time to actually catch a glimpse of its interesting combination of historic venues and modern sites through my outdoor lecture guided by our knowledgeable professor John William Bailly. 

The Government Center was undoubtedly the transportation hub of the whole bustling city. It’s a perfect transfer station for the Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus where you can easily hop on the vehicle and explore the central area. 

Walking towards the huge public artwork displays nearby, the color palette consisting of oranges, yellow, and green captured my attention because of its brightness in appearance and fragmented in sculpture. It captured the stage of orange slices and peels falling off the bowl and dropping to the ground in pieces. The meaning behind was the depiction of the execution, obtaining its arrangement to escape the seeming chaos following Miami’s expansion.

We then came across the Miami-Dade Courthouse where the monument of Henry Flager stood. He is widely known to be an important figure of the city’s history by bringing the first railroad here as well as making a vital contribution to the state’s economy through tourism and agriculture. Nonetheless, one should not forget his establishment of the Colored Town – setting the first step in race discrimination against colored people. 

After that, we walked all the way to the Miami River where it used to provide water in its purest form running from Everglades to the people here. It is also the branch isolating downtown Miami from today’s Brickell neighborhood. Historically, this was exactly where the earliest inhabitants, the Tequesta, sought for shelter and food along the riverbanks. More interestingly, in the past, many Spanish missions were actually held here during the Civil War.

Finally, I’m saving the best for last for this admiring, respected National Historic Landmark called the Freedom Tower – a true icon of independence and liberty for once oppressed people pursuing the American Dream. It first served as the Daily News Tower but then became the famous site for Cuban immigrants as where they got to actually be involved in this country. 

Apart from that, I found it to be extremely alluring that the Tower got its architectural design from the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain, where I will have a chance to confront it in less than three months. Today, it’s a fully functional cultural heart of prominent national programs such as Miami Book Fair, Film Festival, Museum of Art and Design, …

Photos by Elsa Chung // CC by 4.0

“Lively Neighborhood

By Elsa Chung of FIU at South Beach on 1 April 2022

Miami is more than just beautiful beaches and white sands. This South Beach area featuring a vibrant neighborhood full of unique and iconic designs will definitely capture your attention at first sight.

Art Decor is an architectural heritage located along the Ocean Drive. It is indeed the nation’s first 20th century National Historic District. You can easily spot some of the signature design elements such as neon lighting, curved edges, rule of three, white facades, pastel highlights, glass bricks,… and more to be explored. 

The district is a diverse collection of vivid buildings in forms of both historic and modern structural styles. Anyone visiting Miami or South Beach could easily spot this eye-catching neighborhood through some surely noticeable features like geometric lines, chrome accents, window ¨eyebrows¨. Especially, it is best to gaze at the stunning Art Deco skyline across from Lummus Park.

Among all of the emblematic hotels, the blue Breakwater Hotel stood out to me the most. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most well-known boutique properties in this territory. Its structure showcases towers and vertical elements, which are highlights of the Art Deco revolution. The colors blue and yellow harmoniously blend into each other on top of the cream base bring about the vibe of ocean freshness and bright sunshine-exactly the representation of Miami, Florida. 

Prominently, this vibrant Art Deco historic district wouldn’t have existed without the leadership of Barbara Baer Capitman, whose vision is to preserve the area. Today, there are several construction gems that still stand strong and portray the retro affection of the whole era. 

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