CHARLES HARRISON PAWLEY, 73Designed Little Haiti landmark
BY ANDRES VIGLUCCIaviglucci@MiamiHerald.com
Charles Harrison Pawley, a noted Miami architect whose Caribbean Marketplace in Little Haiti won American architecture's highest award, has died at 73.
A convivial and imposing figure, Pawley enjoyed the pedigree of a long-established Miami family, descendants of the founders of the historic Pawley's Island resort off South Carolina.
But he was largely self-made as an architect, a vocation he chose only after first charting a business career. He studied architecture and apprenticed himself to some of Miami's leading architects of the 1960s, exponents of a modern tropical design he would adopt and adapt.
''He was just a fabulous architect and he was a great guy. He really was,'' said Olivia Hammar, publisher of Florida Architecture, which has often featured Pawley's houses. "He really gave each of his clients an original.''
Pawley shot himself to death at his Miami office on Monday. In a note to his family, Miami police said, he blamed failing health and concerns over becoming a burden to his wife and children.
His death shocked friends and family members, who described Pawley as always upbeat, a doting father and husband and a hard worker.
''In all the years I knew Charles, he was the one person I knew who has never down,'' said William Cox, a retired Miami architect and Pawley friend for 40 years. "He was a bright light. He was our stalwart. Maybe he just wore out.''
His daughter Cynthia Pawley-Martin said family members were not certain why Pawley chose to end his life. He had not been diagnosed with any major ailments, but had been somewhat depressed, especially after the recent death of a close friend and business partner, she said.
Pawley was in his 30s before he designed his first building -- a home for himself because no one would hire him. The house was only half-built when it led to additional commissions, the start of a prolific career that brought him numerous honors.
''I don't know of anybody else in Miami who has his talent, charisma and commands as much of the market as he did,'' Cox said. "He did so much work. He wasn't one of those hottie-artist kind of architects. He would do anything.''
Pawley was also a dedicated preservationist, an early supporter of the Art Deco revival on South Beach. He assisted designer Leonard Horowitz in selecting the now-famous pastel colors that became the palette for the district's first renovations.
He served as the first chairman of Miami-Dade's historic preservation board, and was a longtime board member and former chairman of the Vizcayan Foundation.SAVED LANDMARK
Last year, Pawley led a successful drive to save what was probably his best-known design -- the Caribbean Marketplace, a colorful, joyful concoction modeled after the markets of his native Haiti that is the only South Florida building to win an American Institute of Architects national honor award. The long-vacant building was a commercial failure in spite of critical acclaim and its status as a Little Haiti icon.
Pawley helped rally opposition by Haitian activists to a plan by the city of Miami, which owns the marketplace, to demolish it for a new cultural center. City leaders opted instead to renovate the building and make it part of the new center's design.
Pawley was born to American parents in Port-au-Prince, where his father established a department store and his mother was principal of the American school. He lived there for the first six years of his life before embarking with his parents to places as disparate as Buffalo, N.Y., Hong Kong and India -- a cross-cultural upbringing that Pawley said inspired his affinity for the exotic and a respect for regional architecture.
He attended ''12 schools in 12 years,'' as he once put it, before joining the first graduating class at Coral Gables High, in 1951.
Though he designed commercial and institutional buildings, including a wing of the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, his practice focused on houses. Clients included some of the wealthiest South Floridians. His tropical homes capitalize on South Florida's climate through the use of deep overhangs, lush gardens and courtyards, and extensive use of glass.
''He knew how to put together open courts and patios, a feeling of transparency and louvers and wood,'' said George Reed, another exponent of the style and a close Pawley friend.
One of his early designs, for the Lemontree Village -- a cluster of white stucco duplexes amid a forest of banyans and oaks in Coconut Grove -- won the 1995 Test of Time Award from the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects.
Yet Pawley was also known for versatility, fearlessly tackling clients' requests for a Mediterranean villa or a country French mansion, such as the Gables Estates home he designed in the 1990s for Miami Dolphin legend Nick Buoniconti.
He was also, Cox recalled, a social animal of the first degree, organizing big themed parties, including one with Russian dancers and caviar, often timed to coincide with dates like 6/6/66 and 8/8/88.DEVOTED TO FAMILY
Pawley was also admired by friends for his close devotion to his wife, Barbara. She called him ''the most wonderful husband in the world'' in a statement issued by the family.
With his four grandchildren, Pawley collected pop-up books, ranging from Alice in Wonderland to World Architecture. His daughter Shawn Pawley worked in his office as a manager.
Besides his wife and daughters Cynthia and Shawn, Pawley is survived by a son, Gregg Pawley, and four grandchildren, Shorey Martin, Chad Martin, Christine Martin-Adamson and Arden Louise Pawley Avera.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 7, Pawley's birthday, at Coral Gables First United Methodist Church, 536 Coral Way.
Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Pawley's name to a charity of the giver's choice.