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www.ambiente.us MAY / MAYO 2008
Renowned MiMo architect Giller dead at 90
by Ana Veciana-Suarez and Yudy Pineiro
Renowned architect Norman M. Giller who helped reshape South Florida's landscape through the
mid-century design style known as MiMo -- or Miami Modernism -- died Friday April 18th at his Miami Beach
home, where he had lived for almost 50 years. He was 90.
During his 60-year career,
Giller worked on more than
10,000 structures, among them
such hallmarks as the
Thunderbird Motel in Sunny
Isles, the Singapore Hotel in
Bal Harbour, the original
Diplomat Hotel and Country
Club in Hollywood, the North
Shore Band Shell and the
Giller Building just across the
Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami
His designs were at the
forefront of World War II
architecture, and his influence
can still be seen in the use
of sleek lines, flat roofs, and
geometric patterns of tile,
metal and glass in many
The Carillon Hotel in Miami Beach was the first high-rise structure built in the South using flat-slab
construction. That technique would later come to be widely used in the construction of skyscrapers.
In Designing the Good Life: Norman M. Giller & the Development of Miami Modernism, a book he wrote with
his granddaughter Sarah Giller Nelson last year, Giller revisited the MiMo heyday through old renderings to
Until then, he said, he hadn't realized the weight of his contribution to architecture.
''I never took a count; even that startled me when we started adding them up,'' he told The Miami Herald in a
Nor had Giller made a conscious effort to create a style or a movement.
''We designed a group of buildings,'' he told the Herald. ``I think we mostly were doing our own thing.''
In his book, Giller detailed how air conditioning and cars -- as well as optimism -- fostered the post-war
designs that became so popular in South Florida: 'The post-war years were a dynamic, happy period, and my
clients and I wanted the structures we were creating to fully embody these `contemporary' sentiments.''
''I've tried to show architecture through the eyes of the architect -- not a secondhand view,'' he also told the
Giller designs can also be found in New Mexico, New York, Arkansas, New Jersey and Virginia, as well as in
Panama, Brazil and El Salvador. A frequent lecturer at many universities, including the University of Miami, he
also served as President of the American Institute of Architects, Florida South Chapter and as chairman of the
Florida State Board of Architecture. He was a fellow in the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), one of the
profession's highest honors.
Son Ira Giller, also an architect, remembered family excursions to job sites with his father. ''We would sit in
the back seat of the car and go down Motel Row pointing to his designs,'' he recalled.
Giller's interests were not limited to architecture. Active in Jewish circles, he was past president and
chairman of the board of the Jewish Museum of Florida and founder and trustee of Mount Sinai Medical
Center. He also was the founding president of Concerned Citizens of Northeast Dade and served as
president of various organizations, including the Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Boy Scouts of
America, South Florida Council.
He drafted one of the first redevelopment plans for South Beach and was later instrumental in having Miami
Beach create its own Design Review Board, on which he served as chairman.
In 1983, the Florida Legislature honored his efforts by designating the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway
at the 192nd Street Causeway the Norman M. Giller Bridge.
In addition to Designing the Good Life, Giller also wrote An Adventure in Architecture and A Century in
America, a book that traces his family roots.
He was predeceased by Frances Schwartz Giller, his wife of 52 years, and is survived by his current wife,
Vivian Giller. His surviving children include Ira Giller, Anita Grossman, Brian Giller and seven grandchildren
and four great-grandchildren.
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