The Miami estate of Vizcaya, like its palatial contemporaries Biltmore and San Simeon, represents an achievement of the Gilded Age, when country houses and their gardens were a conspicuous measure of personal wealth and power.
In Vizcaya: An American Villa and Its Makers, a celebrated architecture critic and writer and an award-winning landscape architect explore the little-known story of Vizcaya, an extraordinary national treasure. Witold Rybczynski and Laurie Olin use a rich collection of illustrations, historic photographs, and narrative to document the creation of this stunning house and landscape. Vizcaya was completed in 1916 as the winter retreat of Chicago industrialist James Deering. The cosmopolitan bachelor, who chose Miami for its warm climate, enlisted the guidance of artist Paul Chalfin, with whom he traveled throughout Italy to survey houses and gardens. With the assistance of architect F. Burrall Hoffman, Jr., and garden designer Diego Suarez, the 180-acre site on Biscayne Bay was transformed into a grand estate, complete with lagoons, canals, citrus groves, a farm village, a yacht harbor, and a 40-room Baroque mansion.
The lure of this architectural and landscape masterpiece, named for a Spanish Basque province, is undeniable. John Singer Sargent planned a short visit in 1917 but stayed for several months, producing an inspired series of watercolors, many of which are reproduced here for the first time. The book is further enriched by archival material and by the color images of noted photographer Steven Brooke, paying homage to Vizcaya as a lens through which readers learn about architecture, landscape and garden design, interior decoration, and art.