It is somewhat of a paradox that a city known for a circus-like parade of muscle cars and string bikinis has in recent years become an international hub for art and design. But Miami has long been multilayered, flaunting its colorful art deco architecture alongside vibrant Latin influences, pristine beaches and moneyed mansions.
The city has also had its share of ups and downs. Miami’s condo market meltdown during the financial crisis saw real estate values plummet and construction came to a near standstill. But in this latest building cycle, new financial regulations and an influx of cash buyers, mainly from Latin America, have paved the way for more sustainable growth. The market has cooled over the past year, but this time it’s more of a dip than a crash. And much of Miami’s renewed sense of identity is linked to a renaissance of art and design that has accompanied the latest building boom.
In addition to Art Basel, the city now hosts America’s installment of Maison & Objet, and boasts close to 100 galleries and a dozen art museums. At December’s edition of Design Miami, which coincides with Art Basel, galleries traded in collectable furniture and décor and special pop-up exhibitions were staged at the Design District, a new neighborhood dedicated to innovative fashion, design and dining experiences.
“Over the last ten years Miami has evolved into a strong art community”, says David Martin, president at Terra Group, a Miami-based developer currently building a large-scale condominium project in Coconut Grove designed by architects OMA / Rem Koolhaas. The project is called Park Grove and will feature three curving glass towers, the largest of which has just two residences per floor and expansive ocean views. Apartments here start at USD6 million.
Typical to Miami’s newest crop of luxury buildings, the project also features a special art program for residents, including a private on-site gallery and a two-acre sculpture park designed by Enea Landscape Architecture. These may seem like trendy marketing ploys, but Martin says his company works closely with artists and designers from the start of any project and considers art “a fundamental requirement of completing the design”.
Indeed, in this city the lap pool and spa are yesterday’s news. Instead, thoughtfully designed environments complete with art and landscaping have become the defining feature of luxury, and the world’s foremost architects are leading the way. The late Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels (BIG), Herzog & de Meuron, Renzo Piano, Isay Weinfeld and Jean Nouvel all have projects underway in Miami.
The trend is toward modern, glass-rich towers with floor to ceiling windows that offer city and ocean views. Some designs, like Zaha Hadid’s muscular tower, 1000 Museum Mile, appear like bold sculptural statements on the skyline. Other projects are more understated in their approach, drawing references from Miami’s art deco past.
Brandon Haw, a former principal at Foster + Partners who now runs his own studio has designed Faena Mar, a luxury residential building at the ambitious Faena District in mid-beach. His challenge was to engage both with the new buildings on site and existing art deco and post-war components.
“As all of the buildings are part of the Miami Beach Historic District, the project was an exercise in finding a contextual language for a contemporary architecture where all four buildings would coexist harmoniously”, he says.
Haw’s solution re-establishes the symmetrical purity of the neighboring Versailles Hotel, Faena Mar’s undulating lines echo the rippling façade of the art deco property. However, his design also complements the modern building on the other side with its sleek luxury residences and deep balconies designed to optimise ocean views and breezes. Residences range one to five bedrooms and there’s a 9,600 sq. ft. penthouse with its own rooftop pool.
Furniture, fashion and set designers are also lending their touch to new Miami buildings. Holly Hunt has collaborated on her first real estate project, L’Atelier Miami Beach; fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld will design the lobbies at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles Beach, and Philippe Starck is designing residences at the new SLS Brickell.
Even the more traditional luxury enclaves are upping their design game. Palazzo Del Sol, a new luxury condominium on Fisher Island has a Mediterranean-style façade that is typical of the exclusive island oasis. But for the interiors, PDS Development and Fisher Island Holdings enlisted designers Antrobus + Ramirez, Artefacto and Henge to create turnkey model homes with a sumptuous, contemporary approach that makes the palatial residences feel warm and livable.
The largest residence, curated by Henge, Boffi, Listone Giordano, and Roda, has two private elevators that open directly onto the sprawling living area and nearly 10,000 sq. ft. of living space that includes five bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms, natural wood flooring and wall accents, custom lighting, an Egeo marble dining room table and floor-to-ceiling windows (the unit is listed for USD 19.7 million). Residents in the 43-unit building have a full suite of amenities downstairs, but they can also access Fisher Island’s exclusive golf course, tennis courts, beach club and deep-water marina.
Miami’s waterways and white sand beaches are a big part of its appeal, but the low-lying city’s proximity to the water is also its greatest vulnerability. Built on a dome of porous limestone, Miami is already vulnerable to storm surges, and if climate change predictions are to be believed, large parts of the city could soon be under water.
To date, only one project has fully integrated climate realities into its design scheme. Monad Terrace, a newly launched luxury condominium in Miami Beach by French architect Jean Nouvel is elevated 11.5 ft, well above the city’s updated flood and sea level elevations. The building also features other innovations: climbing gardens, custom honeycomb screens for privacy and a sawtooth profile—a zig-zag along the glass façades that ensure none of the apartments (starting at USD 2 million) lose the view of the bay and sky. For a city so vulnerable to storms and rising sea levels, a focus on sustainable design seems appropriate. Miami may have a surplus of dazzling designs on display, but a truly sustainable urban environment will be the most important design achievement of all.
This article was first published in Palace 19.