Local Obituaries

Antonio Quiroga, one-half of Miami architecture giants, dies at 78

A portrait of architect Tony Quiroga in October 1997, as the partner in Rodriguez & Quiroga led the firm’s effort as associate architects to Cesar Pelli and Associates in the construction of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
A portrait of architect Tony Quiroga in October 1997, as the partner in Rodriguez & Quiroga led the firm’s effort as associate architects to Cesar Pelli and Associates in the construction of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Miami Herald file

Antonio “Tony” Quiroga and Raúl Rodriguez helped build Miami into an international city.

As founding partners in the Coral Gables architecture firm Rodriguez & Quiroga, the duo’s design handiwork is visible at Miami International Airport’s main terminal, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the James L. King Federal Building in downtown Miami.

In addition to its work on civic buildings, the firm also earned a reputation as the go-to place for design work of collegiate buildings such as Miami Dade College, Florida International University, University of Miami, Florida State University, St. Thomas University and Florida Atlantic University.

Even after he retired because of Parkinson’s, Quiroga proved a valuable ally to the firm that still carries his name. In 2003, when he told his colleagues that his motor skills were affected by Parkinson’s and that he wouldn’t be able to carry on day-to-day work, his eyes welled up when they asked if he wanted to retire.

Want to? No, he said. “I may just not be able to continue working,” he told them. Accepting the news would be more difficult. Rodriguez & Quiroga — without the latter’s presence — seemed unthinkable.

“His influence and his professionalism are instilled in every one of our key personnel,” Rodriguez told the Miami Herald in 2013, 10 years after Quiroga left the office but not the firm. “He’s unable to come to work every day, but he’s not unable to contribute. He is always available to us.”

Quiroga died May 27. He was 78.

Rodriguez and Quiroga met as architects at what was then Ferendino Grafton Spillis Candela. They struck out on their own in 1983 with partner Jorge Khuly, who left in 1988.

Rodriguez & Quiroga played off the talents of its namesakes. In a 1999 story, Rodriguez told the Miami Herald that he offered skills in community involvement and design, while Quiroga brought the technical ability. The combination made the firm a force in South Florida. More recently, Rodriguez & Quiroga worked as associate architects to Britain’s Grimshaw, the design firm for the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami.

In an email Rodriguez shared with Quiroga’s family and with the Miami Herald after his partner’s death, he called Quiroga “an architect’s architect” in a field that is both beautiful and difficult.

“In baseball those individuals who hit safely three out of 10 times at bat are considered superstars. In architecture the competition is so fierce that one would be very fortunate to do as well,” wrote Rodriguez. “This competition makes it very hard for architects to have other architects as friends. Tony made life-long friends of fellow architects everywhere from architecture school in Havana to his years practicing in New York and Miami.”

Quiroga earned his architecture degree at the University of Havana before fleeing Cuba in 1961. Classmate, and later neighbor, Pepe Danon “loved Tony like a brother,” Rodriguez said.

Quiroga worked with Welton Becket Architects of New York until 1978. There, he helped design the Aetna Insurance building in San Francisco, Xerox headquarters in Rochester, New York, and the Moscow World Trade Center in Russia.

At Ferendino Grafton Spillis Candela, Quiroga designed the headquarters for American Bankers Insurance Group in South Miami-Dade, the headquarters for Florida Power & Light in Juno Beach and the Miami-Dade County Central Support Facility.

After the pair left Spillis Candela for their local firm, inspired by the success of Arquitectonica, Quiroga worked 20 years on the Miami International Airport terminal project. He also led the effort as associate architect to Cesar Pelli and Associates on the Arsht Center’s concert hall.

Historic preservation was part of their trade, as Rodriguez & Quiroga oversaw the renovation of the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, Ponce de Leon Middle School in Coral Gables, Miami Central High School and the conversion of the former Florida Grand Opera headquarters at 1200 Coral Way into the Cuban Museum.

“To start an architecture practice at 46 years of age was brave,” Rodriguez said in the email. Through the ups and downs of business, Quiroga maintained his sense of humor.

“When the firm was not selected for a project and would ask why, we were given nonsense answers. When I became infuriated he would say, ‘¡No le hagan caso, todo es mentira!’ [Do not listen, everything is a lie.]”

Quiroga is survived by his wife Vicky; sons Tony and Alex Quiroga and grandchildren Belinda and Caroline Quiroga. Services were held.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen