Ugo’s Next Big Thing
For the last 25 years, Ugo Colombo has been known for introducing a sleek glass look and European flair to Miami condo buildings. It has inspired much of the region's architecture since then. Now he’s about to create another seismic wave. (Well, as soon as he's done celebrating his 55th birthday yesterday…shhhh.)
We snapped Ugo in his office last week high above Brickell, not far from…
Some of those pioneering buildings he did like Bristol Tower in 1993…
…and the Santa Maria in 1997, both in Brickell, not to mention the Epic downtown, Porto Vita in Aventura, and Grovenor House in Coconut Grove.
Ugo’s never built square boxes. But now he’s ready to break ground for the 64-story Brickell Flatiron, featuring accentuated curvilinear shapes, and floors with different forms and detail intersecting each other on alternating levels. We are no experts, but the way we see it, Miami is on the verge of transcending the Glass Age into the Wavy Age. (Or maybe, to sound more like a geological epoch, the Curvaceous Age.)
Ugo’s longtime architect, Luis Revuelta, tells us the defining characteristic of the Flatiron will be a "kinetic feel," giving the observer a sense of movement. For example, on the eastern side facing the bay, Luis says it will look like the wind from the water is hitting the building, and on the side facing the city, lines will purposely be flatter and more linear. He says the site's triangular shape has lent itself both to the name Flatiron and to new architectural shapes. But it’s not so simple as designing it to look cool—it also has to be functional, and Ugo is known for the highest-quality interior finishes and design. A building is “lived from inside,” he likes to say, and structures shouldn't interfere.
As his desk might suggest, Ugo is a New Ager and wants Brickell Flatiron to be state-of-the art. He says it will get all the gadgets he can think of, like electronic doors so you can enter your unit by phone or authorize time-limited entry to others. And location sensors, so as you’re walking in or out, lights and AC can go on or off. And, of course, high-gigabit Internet access; cellphone repeaters; incredible sound insulation; and so on.
How does Ugo get anything done with these distracting views? Actually, he tells us he gets so much done working in Brickell—the neighborhood is very accommodating to building and a developer can avoid many of the regulatory hoops of other areas.
Decades ago he was an early adopter of modern cranes when he did Bristol Tower, the same kind commonly used today. He keeps a model.
Even if he’s at times literally in the clouds on the 24th floor, he’s always ready for action.
And keeping his eye out for other opportunities around town. He’s a partner in Beach House 8 in the new Faena District. He would even consider the right project in Miami Beach or Wynwood, he says.
But Ugo’s got a retro side, too. Asked about favorite music, he mentions a wide range from Billy Joel to hip hop, but when pushed on a favorite song, he finds this on his phone:
A 1958 recording by legend Domenico Madugno of Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu—otherwise known as Volare. Some more factoids you may not know about Ugo:
Kids: ages 8 and 9
Restaurant: Casa Tua, started by one of his friends from childhood
Go to joint: Toni’s sushi on Washington
Weakness for: Chocolate and marrons glacés
Food nostalgia: Grew up eating fresh fruit in season, apricots, peaches and cherries in spring—unthinkable in December.
Vacation: Aspen Highlands, any other travel—eg, St. Barts, Exumas in Bahamas, and world travel in general—recently Iceland, Alaska, Cambodia
Favorite sport: anything with an engine
Normal car: super quiet Audi 8
For a fun drive: Debates between driving Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren
Racing (when wife allows): 488 Ferrari challenge car, Porsche 911 GT3
Cars coming out he can’t wait to try: Jag SUV and Maserati SUV
Other risky adventures: has skydived “more than once” in Palm Beach, bungee jumped in South Beach years ago
First saw Miami: came here as teenager in '70s, saw the new wave of buildings coming up like Atlantis and the Palace; in '83 came to UM. Love at first sight.