Vizcaya as Text

Tatiana Torres of FIU at Vizcaya
Tatiana Torres of FIU at Vizcaya

Vizcaya as Text was developed by Wendy Wolf of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and John W Bailly of FIU Honors College

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is positioned at the center of the Miami conversation between the US and Western Europe. This project will offer students a uniquely structured exploration of Vizcaya, with an emphasis on reflecting on transatlantic similarities and contrasts. Vizcaya as Text is an interdisciplinary investigation of the people, art, architecture, culture of historic museum and gardens. While providing certain required guidelines, the project is structured in an open manner that enables student participants to emphasize their respective disciplinary interests. It is the students’ mission to investigate, discover and document Vizcaya.

Students will form 4 groups of 5 students.  Each group will be assigned one Vizcaya location.  During the course of one day, the student group must explore the people, art and location of their respective locations.

All students must wear an FIU shirt. We want to be clearly identifiable as a university group. Students must not speak to guards or interrupt guided tours.

Protocol for engaging museum visitors

Introduce yourself and state that you are participating in an educational assignment.

“Hello, my name is X. I am a student at Florida International University here in Miami participating in a learning program at the museum today. May I ask you a few questions?”

Since the visitor likely answered questions for you, please be open to answering questions they may have about the activity, class or university.

Though your shirt will affiliate you with FIU, the visitor might ask questions about the museum. If so, and as needed, please refer them to the nearest security officer or visitor services representative.

Each student will create an image and text reflection on Vizcaya. All reflections will posted on the public Miami as Text Instagram account. Students will be given a tour of Vizcaya. Following the tour, students will revisit the collection individually. Each student will select one aspect of Vizcaya to reflect upon. The subject selected can be an artwork, a person (employee or visitor), an architectural space, or any other relevant aspect.

Review Guidelines and Tips for Text projects
Bailly’s Guide to City as Text

See student reflections on Instagram


All groups are to meet at the main entrance of the Vizcaya.

Group 1: Explore the ground floor of the Main House.

Group 2: Explore the upper levels (second floor and towers) of the Main House.

Group 3:  Explore the terraces immediately surrounding the Main House and the Orchidarium.

Group 4: Explore the Formal Gardens south of the Main House.

All groups are to meet on the East Terrace Steps (waterfront) after completing a designated time of exploration. The entire class will then tour Vizcaya Museums and Gardens with students sharing their reflections.

The following are suggested questions participants may ask.  The inquiry should include, but not be limited, to these.  Research should focus only on the participants’ respective location. Participants should particularly reflect on the relationship between historic and cultural parallels and contrasts. Students should also examine the contemporary use of Vizcaya-how and by whom?

  • What did you know about Vizcaya before participating in Vizcaya as Text?
  • What is American at Vizcaya?
  • What is inspired by Classical Roman culture  at Vizcaya?
  • What is inspired by Italian culture at Vizcaya?
  • What is inspired by French culture at Vizcaya?
  • What is inspired by Spanish culture at Vizcaya?
  • What is inspired by Venetian culture at Vizcaya?
  • What is uniquely Miamian at Vizcaya?
  • What architectural styles are evident at Vizcaya? Renaissance? Rococo? Neoclassical? Revival?
  • What artistic styles are evident at Vizcaya?
  • What do you perceive to be the demographics of Vizcaya visitors? Who is there and why? For how long?
  • Describe the people that work at Vizcaya.
  • Describe the architecture and the influence it has on people.
  • What is the general ambiance of Vizcaya?
  • Why do people visit Vizcaya? Are the visitors local or do they come from other cities? How often do they come?
  • What is your experience?
  • Are your impressions similar to other members of your group? How and why are they similar? How are they different?
  • Are your impressions similar to other visitors to Vizcaya?
  • Do impressions differ on place of origin? Social class? Education?
  • What works at Vizcaya? What needs improvement?
  • How is Vizcaya different the place where you live?
  • Any other thoughts or impressions you have.
  • Will you return to Vizcaya? With whom? Why?
  • What lasting memory will you take away from your visit today?


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