Thanks to grants provided by American Express and The Villagers, Vizcaya has completed treatment of two pairs of ornate metal and glass light fixtures that adorn the south and east façades of the Main House. A century of exposure to the marine environment took a toll on these decorative, functional objects. Vizcaya contracted Rosa Lowinger & Associates, a conservation firm with studios in Miami and Los Angeles, to lead a team of conservators, metal smiths, electricians, engineers and glass fabricators to bring these fixtures back to their former glory. Research revealed an unexpected bronze-colored paint was originally applied to the fixtures. Conservation included cleaning, corrosion removal, loss compensation and repair, refinishing, re-wiring, replacement of broken glass and reinstallation, as well as the development of a de-install method for removal and storage during hurricane season.
A series of preservation assessments conducted between 2005-2012 informs the prioritization of conservation at Vizcaya. Vizcaya was awarded a highly competitive grant from the federal government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2010 to undertake a survey of art objects, many of which are integral to the architecture of the Main House. Conservators with expertise as varied as Vizcaya’s collections conducted research at the estate to develop a preliminary long-term conservation plan. Projects are addressed as resources are available.
Renovation of the Main House is occurring through GOB funding in several phases based on need, priority, and as other funding becomes available. Recent Structural improvements were made to the swimming pool and exterior stone masonry through an ambitious yearlong construction project from 2015-2016. Over time, salt, wind, and storms caused widespread damage to the limestone columns and arches, particularly at the east elevation’s main entrance. These elements were carefully replaced using customized materials and techniques to restore the aesthetic and structural integrity of the east façade while trying to replicate the original construction process. The project includes the installation of a new impact resistant glass enclosure at the east entrance to protect the interior of the Main House in the event of a major storm.
Extensive building system upgrades remain in the Main House, including plumbing, electrical and environmental systems, as well as repair or replacement of building “envelope” components, such as the roof, windows and doors. As part of this process, Vizcaya will replace the perforated metal hurricane screens that diminish the appearance of the Main House from outside and obstruct views of the surrounding landscape from within. Preliminary improvements to the HVAC and plumbing systems are planned for 2016.