Why Miami Beach is the Country’s Hub for Contemporary Architecture and Design
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Why Miami Beach is the Country’s Hub for Contemporary Architecture and Design

Robin Hill

Between the Pritzker Prize ceremony and the inaugural American Maison & Objet, Miami Beach reasserts itself as a seat for contemporary design in the United States.

The success of Art Basel is proof that Miami never met an art party it didn’t like, and the aesthetic afterglow of last week’s events—the Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony and the debut of Maison & Objet Americas—has spilled over into Miami’s Design District, where architecture, art and design are on a bender.

Maison & Objet Americas

Following the model of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland—which chose Miami as its first American outpost in 2002—the design tradeshow Maison & Objet Paris opted to use Miami as a host city for its inaugural American effort earlier this month.

Maison & Objet Americas, which will mount annual design tradeshows at the Miami Beach Convention Center through 2018, features more than 300 brands from 24 countries, spanning Brazil’s La Lampe and its architecturally-precise lighting fixtures, and the colorful Baroque-style furniture of POLaRT from Mexico.

During the event, Niba Home introduced a bar designed by Luis Pons and a couch by Niba Home-owner Nisi Berryman: the pieces are now on view at Niba Home, based in Miami’s Design District.

To Berryman, Maison & Objet Americas is a chance for Miami to cut loose, “What Miami’s design world needs is what O, Miami, our annual poetry festival, has done for poetry: design events here should be open, young, and fun.”

Pritzker Architecture Prize

At the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center earlier this month, the tone for the Pritzker Prize ceremony—architecture’s Academy Awards—was distinctly private and scholarly. Gehry has won the Pritzker, and the all-star team of former Pritzker winners at the 2015 Pritzker Prize awards included Zaha Hadid—currently doing the 1000 Museum building in Miami—and Sir Norman Foster, one of the Starchitects responsible for Miami Beach’s Faena House.

The 2015 Pritzker Laureate is the late German architect Frei Otto; one event at the New World Center complex was held underneath an Otto-designed tent, a tent design originally used for a 1955 music pavilion and executed for the Pritzker ceremony by 2014 Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban.

Jean Nouvel, a big fan of the Fontainebleau’s Morris Lapidus, talked of Miami’s light, “a kind of plain white geometry made for contemporary architecture. This is the new American city, a testimony of our century.”

For his part, the London-based David Adjaye—best known for Washington D.C.’s upcoming National Museum of African American/History and Culture—was similarly Miami-bedazzled, “I love Miami: I’m just looking for the right Miami client to come along.”

The Otto-designed tent for the Pritzker awards will be installed at the Design District in time for Art Basel.

Design District

For the next few weeks, Design District visitors will experience a series of Maison & Objet-inspired “activations.” Featured: Brazilian interior firm Ornare saluting Rio-based Zanini de Zanine, Maison & Objet Americas’ first Designer of the Year. Also: an old Spanish granary and Jose Luis Bazan’s leather bowls at Loewe, the debut North American outpost for the Madrid-based retailer.

This being the Design District, shoppers can pop into Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and the new Guccivuitton exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA), funded in part by the Knight Foundation.

At the ICA, Guccivuitton—a scrappy artist-run gallery in Miami’s Little Haiti, bearing a name meant to mock Miami’s consumerist culture—has created a four-story mock salesroom speaking to the commodity status of art within museums and galleries.

Miami is always up for a sound art conceit, and better yet, Miamians, even Gucci and/or Vuitton fans, aren’t afraid of jokes made at their expense.

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