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Exploring Vizcaya’s Stone Barge during King Tide

Ever wanted to climb aboard Vizcaya’s Stone Barge? Although the public does not have access to this space for conversation reasons, we are giving you an inside look at this space through a video mini-tour.

Before we get into the history, let’s talk about what you’ll see in the video, which was shot during the height of King TIde.

You will also notice that the entire middle portion of the Barge is currently underwater. The level of flooding changes with the tides and what you see here is a King Tide, a higher than the average tide common in the Fall months that typically lasts about 3 hours.

THE HISTORY

The Barge was built in 1916 from reinforced cast concrete and clad in native coral stone sourced during the construction of Vizcaya. It has three main functions.

It is a work of art, featuring commissioned sculptures by Alexander Stirling Calder, a prominent sculptor of the late 19th century.

It was used as a leisure space used to entertain James Deering’s guests. It could only be accessed by a gondola and was outfitted with furniture, landscaping, and even a summer home with a trellis dome.

But most importantly, it serves as a breakwater built to protect the estate from storms – even to this day.

As such, the Barge has been impacted by natural weathering and dozens of hurricanes over the last 100 years.

THE PRESERVATION WORK

A number of steps have been taken over the years to help protect this iconic Miami landmark.

In 2001, the original Calder statues were replicated, so copies could take the place of the originals, which are still safely stored away. This step was inspired by the conservation efforts in the Acropolis of Athens.

Just before Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, Vizcaya also completed a full 3D scan of the Barge using lasers and photogrammetry.

Combined with architectural records, 3D scans will allow the museum to perform restoration work with a high degree of historic accuracy as well as create virtual models for the public to enjoy.

Because of its location and Miami climate, the Barge is the most vulnerable space at Vizcaya and preservation efforts will be ongoing. With proper documentation on our side, this work will be much easier.

CAN I GO ON THE BARGE?

We encourage you to visit Vizcaya to experience the Barge in person from the Lower East Terrace. As we mentioned earlier, visitors are not allowed to board the Barge because of its delicate state. However, thanks to work done with 3D documentation, you can take a virtual walk on the Barge through the virtual models available @ virtualvizcaya.org.