It is a rare event when Formula 1® racing devotees (who favor turbos over turbines) find something in common with two eco-minded architects. Yet that is precisely where elite racing enthusiasts and Austin, Texas-based Miró Rivera Architects intersect: on the track. Or more specifically, the 3.4-mile track at Circuit of The Americas, the first purpose-built Formula 1 Grand Prix™ facility in the United States.
The quiet, unassuming duo—Juan Miró is the son of a Spanish architect, while Miguel Rivera’s father was a contractor—might have seemed like an unexpected choice to design the signature buildings of a facility that not only needed to be monumental, but also loud enough aesthetically to bear the weight of Formula 1’s highly anticipated debut on American soil. Their portfolio had previously carried a more subtle charge: their commercial, cultural and residential buildings were thoughtfully centered around nature, durability, low energy consumption and sculptural beauty. In the end, however, Miró Rivera Architects proved their designs were, in fact, built for speed. Debuting in November 2012, the firm’s world-class motorsports and entertainment venue welcomed 120,000 fans who had their choice of watching the wild and suspenseful battle for the driver’s title from the 251-foot tall Observation Tower, the Grand Plaza, the 6,500-seat Austin360 Amphitheater or the Main Grandstand.
“The smart, aerodynamic design of Formula 1 cars provided a starting point for our architectural design,” explained Miró of their vision. “We wanted to capture the energy of Formula 1 Racing through iconic forms.”
As the Formula 1 tour gears up to hit Belgium this month and readies for a November return to Austin, Previews® Inside Out talked with Miró and Rivera about their high-end architecture both on and off the track.
Previews Inside Out What was the biggest challenge with designing the facilities at the Circuit of the Americas?
Miró Rivera Architects Creating an architectural vocabulary to unify the Formula 1 facilities and relate them to the modern, forward thinking of car racing was the biggest challenge. By having an exposed structure that presented a clean and efficient aesthetic, we were able to create a sense of modernity at the event facilities.
Previews Inside Out What was it like attending the track’s debut event in November 2012 and seeing the spaces you designed come to life?
Miró Rivera Architects Yes, we were there, and meeting Fernando Alonso was fantastic! Seeing 120,000 people enjoying, walking and navigating around the plaza and the facilities made all the effort worth it.
Previews Inside Out Where do you think your residential work intersects with your work on Circuit of the Americas?
Miró Rivera Architects The attention to detail we provide in our residential work carried over into this project. We stress the importance of composing memorable, stunning spaces that define events and establish themselves as lasting focal points. The Main Grandstand we designed for Formula 1 anchors visitors’ experience to the event and fosters a sense of place that is essential to the new circuit’s identity.
Previews Inside Out A lot of your homes harmonize with nature. How would you say the Circuit of the Americas continues that design tradition?
Miró Rivera Architects The Grand Plaza Amphitheater is a place that will allow 16,000+ fans to enjoy open-air concerts in a venue that integrates architecture, music and nature. In fact, we recently enjoyed the Mumford and Sons concert whose two shows sold out in less than 30 minutes.
Previews Inside Out From your perspective, where are the best viewing spots?
Miró Rivera Architects There’s no question about it: from the top of the Observation Tower you can see the whole racetrack. The integration of material efficiency and thoughtful structural design enhances the feeling of lightness and verticality that the Observation Tower embodies.
Previews Inside Out Switching gears, what has been your most memorable residential project?
Miró Rivera Architects This is a very hard question, since all our projects become incredibly special. Residence 104 was the first project that we worked on together, and it was the reason why Miguel ultimately moved to Austin in 2000.
Previews Inside Out You have both said that you “are interested in ancient cultures and trying to understand the reasons people build what they build.” What does that mean in the context of your homes?
Miró Rivera Architects Abstracting and adapting historical and cultural references was an important component of our Lakeshore Residence. The owners of the property are originally from India so by understanding their culture we were able to integrate design elements from India in a subtle way. For instance, the Pooja room, which is used for praying, must be the tallest part of the house. We designed it to connect to an exterior pond as an allusion to famous Indian baths.
Previews Inside Out What makes a home luxurious in your opinion?
Miró Rivera Architects By providing natural light, we can create a human connection to nature that is enhanced by a simple palate of impeccable materials.
Previews Inside Out If you were in the market for a new home, what is the one architectural element you would look for?
Miró Rivera Architects An abundance of natural light in every space would be key.
Miró Rivera Architects (MRA) is an award-winning architectural firm operating in Austin, Texas since 1997. The firm has earned a position on Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100, and is known for offering a wide range of architectural services including: architecture, urban design and interior design. For more information, log onto www.mirorivera.com.