Design Miami 2009

Design Miami 2009

By Aaron Britt
Dwell's intrepid editor and man about town, Aaron Britt, reports on the sights and scene this week at Design Miami in Miami Beach, Florida.

Though Design Miami kicks off today, I did spend a rather nice time yesterday tooling around the rather sultry Miami Beach design scene. In the morning I was part of a little tour led by Audi's head of design, Steffan Sielaff--they debuted their new A8 sedan last night--that wended through the Art Deco District of South Beach, made a few architectually significant stops, and finished at what turned out to be a proper preview of the latest from Swiss architecture stars Herzog and de Meuron.

The first stops were at the 1947 Delano Hotel, which is quite a posh Deco joint tarted up inside by Philippe Starck. Next door was the much-more-of-its-era National Hotel, which our preservation-minded Miami guide seemed to prefer. Also on the haute design tip, we stopped into the Marcel Wanders–refurbished Mondrian Hotel, where I stayed for Design Miami last year. Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer my present digs here at the Morris Lapidus–designed Fontainebleau Hotel. Though the Mondrian still feels like an ode to Dutch whimsy (deeply whimsical people, the Dutch) rendered in outsized white plastic, there was one detail that caught my eye.

Instead of a gift shop, the Mondrian has a giant, white vending machine from which to purchase your goods. But these aren't just any goods. The machine, dubbed Morgan's Semi Automatic, purveys not spare razors, nor travel-sized toothpaste, nor the spare tube of sunblock. Instead you may purchase a Marcel Wanders Egg Vase for $160, the latest geegaw from Jean Paul Gaultier or, improbably, a giant t-shirt by Richard Nicoll for a cool six c-notes.

The real highlight however was a stop in at 1111 Lincoln Road, which boasts a massive parking structure by that sexy Swiss duo Herzog and de Meuron (below). Typically obsessed with slick skins and fetching facades, this time the pair have opted to keep things breezy by making a completely open structure. The building next door, a 1960s-era bunker-like office building, is all hulking form, making the porous parking garage a good aesthetic neighbor. Our group wandered the several floors, which vary in height--the short ones will be just for cars and the tall ones will have a variety of functions. Developer Robert Wennett showed us around and explained, "this parking garage is meant to be a kind of civic building, with art installations and variety of retail."

Though there is some street-level shopping, the real coup is a new outlet for the Miami boutique Alchemist, which will have a new "drive-in shop" on the fifth level. As a glassed-in cube with 22-foot-high ceilings, views of Miami Beach from one end and the concrete garage out the other, one does hope scandal is averted through a deft placement of the dressing rooms.

Though they were not totally apparent on the tour, a pair of gardens by Raymond Jungles are in the works, and Wennett is meant to have a rooftop abode for himself. Wennett told me that 1111 Road is delivering this week, meaning before long we can add luxury parking to Miami's list of vices.

An unintended benefit of being up so high at 1111 Lincoln Road was that I glimpsed a building I had been hoping to see: the synagogue belonging to the Cuban Hebrew Congregation (above). Though I didn't get a good look at it whilst at 1111, I did wander back later in the day after a stop into the Wolfsonian Museum. Though it looks straight out of the Flintstones, I really liked the synagogue and lamented that it was closed when I tried to go in. The tsuris!


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