Narchitecture, a term coined by Cuban journalist Rosa Lowinger and further popularized by the art criticism blog C-Monster.net, is a school of architecture favored by drug barons and has long been a staple of the South Florida landscape. The style, such as it is, is characterized by splashy, monumental jumbles of classical arches and columns gussying up tropical McMansions. While critics say these homes have more chutzpah than class, some aficionados of avant-garde art that have been in town for exhibits have been touting some of these properties.
Along with Cali and Medellín in Colombia and Kabul in Afghanistan, architects say Miami is one of the cities of the world with an abundance of narchitechture. Brokers for these properties say that when the original owner moves (or sells his holdings to cover legal bills) these homes often get torn down.
It’s important to note, however, that some of these houses endure long after anyone who may have had a shady past is gone from the picture. It is also noteworthy that the narchitectural label is now commonly — as with the examples in this story — applied to homes based on their stylistic excesses, regardless of the legitimacy of their financial origins.
Narchitected homes can command high prices, but this is often because these homes occupy prime waterfront lots.
In May, a house in this style, located at 24 South Hibiscus Drive on Hibiscus Island, sold for $10.6 million. The seller, John Turchin, is the owner of Turchin Properties, which builds luxury homes in South Florida and North Carolina. Turchin is the son of the founders of the Turchin Center for Visual Arts at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.
Built in 2003 in the Greek Mediterranean style, the entire house nearly sits in a swimming pool, and was designed for parties, said Mark Cannon, director for residential sales at Integra Realty Resources in Miami. The 13,000-square-foot home listed for as high as $22 million in 2005.
“The house itself is gorgeous,” said Cannon. “But it is not functional.”
The main house has only one bedroom and there are additional cottages and a maid’s room over the garage. One unique feature is a rooftop deck, which affords breathtaking views of Miami Beach.
Art lovers call one home on Palm Island that recently sold a prime example of narchitecture (some brokers prefer to call its style ‘early Liberace’). The 25,000-square-foot home is presently owned by Grammy Award-winning music producer Scott Scorch, best known for his work with Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Dr. Dre and Paris Hilton.
The house has 40-foot ceilings, a corridor with a series of bedrooms on each side and marble floors and columns. In some of the bathrooms, there is marble on the walls and ceilings.
“Some wealthy people have more dollars than sense,” said Cannon.