March 21, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Preservation Cover Shoot at Miami Marine Stadium

The city of Miami at dawn as viewed from the Miami Marine Stadium seating area.
The city of Miami at dawn

In the Spring 2013 issue of Preservation magazine, we’ll be featuring one of our National Treasures, the Miami Marine Stadium. Producing the story required navigating an ocean of red tape -- filling out film permits and “hold harmless” agreements with the city of Miami, providing proof of insurance, etc. -- all to get approval to photograph the stadium, which stands abandoned behind a chain link fence and locked gate.

Abandoned, but not unused.

Soon after it was deemed unsafe in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit southern Florida, the iconic modernist concrete structure became a canvas for graffiti artists who have, for nearly two decades now, been trespassing on the property to paint and repaint the walls, columns, ceilings, and roof of the structure with a tapestry of images both lovely and profane.

Skateboarders too, frequent the stadium, transporting concrete and plywood to the site to create ramps, rails, and berms, hiding push brooms for sweeping up debris in the darkened recesses of the structure’s former storage area.

Excited to capture the vitality of the stadium, Preservation scheduled a two-day photo shoot. We planned to wake in the dark hours before dawn each day so we could photograph the stadium at sunrise from the water by boat. Then, mid-morning, we’d head ashore to catch the skateboarders and graffiti artists in action.

But the Miami police would have none of that.

I am thinking that permitting rigmarole put the cops on alert, as they regularly dropped by to chase off trespassers, dashing our plans to show how, despite measures intended to keep visitors at a distance, the Miami Marine Stadium remains a much-loved, vital component of south Florida.

All, however, was not lost, as you will see in the forthcoming Spring-issue story.

Notwithstanding the stadium’s derelict state, we saw past the smashed beer bottles, rusted railings, and broken seats to capture the structure’s essence, its dramatic and graceful design. And I had a chance to snap photos of our intrepid photographers at work as they perched in a scissor lift 40 feet in the air, balanced in dinky johnboat, and low-crawled beneath the seating area in pursuit of that perfect shot.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from behind the scenes:

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Dennis Hockman is editor in chief of Preservation magazine. He’s lived in historic apartments and houses all over the United States and knows that all old buildings have stories to tell if you care to find them.

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