The Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict

Fash­ion part­ners with the worlds of art and ar­chi­tec­ture to cre­ate a neigh­bor­hood burst­ing with in­no­va­tion

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY PA­TRI­CIA LETAKIS

It’s a Satur­day af­ter­noon and the newly un­veiled lux­ury stores of the Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict couldn’t look more stun­ning. Sun­beams are danc­ing on the dou­ble pan­els of thick bluet­inted glass, two sto­ries tall, that shape Ja­panese ar­chi­tect Sou Fujimoto’s sleek build­ing in the Palm Court re­tail cen­ter. Here Pi­aget, Hublot and other high-end re­tail­ers have set up shop. In the ad­ja­cent public space, tow­er­ing slen­der palms sprout up around Le Cor­bus­ier, a larger-than-life bust of the Swiss­French ar­chi­tect Charles-Edouard Jean­neret-Gris, who was a ma­jor force in defin­ing mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture—and no doubt in­flu­enced the ar­chi­tects who de­signed the sur­round­ing build­ings. Pen­cil in hand, the fiber­glass sculp­ture by French artist Xavier Veil­han seems to be draw­ing the de­sign dis­trict’s latest ur­ban struc­tures.

As shop­pers move about the plaza, the cor­ner build­ing, where the sun is now cast­ing its light, is rea­son to stop. Cov­er­ing the ex­te­rior walls of the Louis Vuit­ton store are shiny white square pat­terns bal­anc­ing on cir­cu­lar shapes and cre­at­ing a spec­tac­u­lar art form. In­side, ex­quis­ite hand­bags with the cov­eted LV logo and hip ac­ces­sories in the latest shades of blue, yel­low and or­ange line the shelves.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict, lo­cated about three miles north of down­town, was a hub of show­rooms for work­ing in­te­rior de­sign­ers; then the wave of restau­ra­teurs mov­ing to the main­land from South Beach added a din­ing as­pect to the scene. Now the dis­trict has found a new call­ing as a neigh­bor­hood to­tally ded­i­cated to in­no­va­tive fash­ion, de­sign, art, ar­chi­tec­ture and din­ing. At the

fore­front of the “new” de­sign dis­trict, how­ever, are the world’s most sought- af­ter re­tail­ers: Cartier, Tif­fany & Co., Harry Win­ston, Ver­sace, Prada, Givenchy, Dior, Chris­tian Louboutin and the list goes on. Given Mi­ami’s rep­u­ta­tion as a glam­orous trop­i­cal des­ti­na­tion that’s not shy about rein­vent­ing it­self and is well known as a mag­net for the rich and fa­mous, the Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict may just be the East Coast’s ver­sion of Los An­ge­les’ Rodeo Drive.

Con­struc­tion is still go­ing on with more stores and restau­rants slated to open into 2016, but the plan is to have the dis­trict glow­ing in time for the an­nual Art Basel (Dec. 3-6), the world’s premier art show for mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary works, which at­tracts in­ter­na­tional artists, col­lec­tors, cu­ra­tors and gal­lerists, as well as art-cen­tric visi­tors of all sorts.

En­com­pass­ing about eight square blocks, the dis­trict’s heart beats along the pedes­trian-friendly NE 39th and NE 40th streets. Lined with lux­ury stores and con­nected by plazas and side­walks, this is where any shop­per who ap­pre­ci­ates (and can af­ford) the finer things in life will leave weighed down by de­signer shop­ping bags.

“I may not be a reg­u­lar cus­tomer here, but a mini-shop­ping spree is def­i­nitely doable,” says South Florida res­i­dent Claudia Sculthrope, as she eyes the pen­dants at Tif­fany & Co. At Louis Vuit­ton two Brazil­ian shop­pers are con­tem­plat­ing a pair of hand­some men’s loafers, cal­cu­lat­ing in their heads reais to dol­lars. Rush­ing down the street, a stylishly dressed young man asks di­rec­tions to the Chris­tian Louboutin store, and long-legged model types crisscross the streets with shop­ping bags sway­ing.

Among the most im­pres­sive bou­tiques is Ver­sace with its store­front of stone slabs and dis­play win­dows out­lined in gold trim that’s pol­ished to per­fec­tion. A man­nequin in a sig­na­ture Ver­sace print dress and saucer-size de­signer sun­glasses draws shop­pers in, while the store it­self fea­tures a tile floor that in­cor­po­rates Ital­ian in­flu­ences.

When it comes to de­sign­ing a build­ing to rep­re­sent a brand, Emilio Pucci hits a home run. The wildly fa­mous de­sign house known for prints with flow­ing lines presents a black-and-white geo­met­ric façade on its build­ing that re­in­forces the pat­terns on the dresses in the shop’s win­dow.

On the tree-lined streets, starkly mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, such as the JBL Build­ing with its di­ag­o­nally pleated con­crete ex­te­rior that houses Omega, blends seam­lessly with the softer, more tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture of Harry Win­ston—an arched door­way and canopy-adorned win­dows sim­i­lar to the diamond sa­lon’s Fifth Av­enue flag­ship store.


To ar­chi­tec­tural pho­tog­ra­pher Robin Hill, who has pho­tographed just about ev­ery note­wor­thy struc­ture in Mi­ami since 1999, the Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict’s ex­cite­ment is in ev­ery de­tail. “One of the things I re­ally like is the park­ing garage,” he says of the un­der­ground fa­cil­ity that is topped with a replica of R. Buck­min­ster Fuller’s ge­o­desic dome en­ti­tled Fly’s Eye Dome. “When you come up through the dome, it’s a very the­atri­cal en­trance into the court­yard [Palm Court], and you see this beau­ti­ful build­ing by Sou Fujimoto. The glass is blue, and you can see its tex­ture and jux­ta­po­si­tion against the blue sky.”

With all the artis­tic forces work­ing to­gether, the Mi­ami De­sign Dis­trict no doubt de­liv­ers a the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence that’s only go­ing to get big­ger and bet­ter in the next few years.

Louis Vuit­ton

Chris­tian Louboutin

Gior­gio Ar­mani

Clock­wise from left: The Le Cor­bus­ier bust, ar­chi­tect Sou Fujimoto’s façade of elon­gated glass fins and the Fly’s Eye Dome by the Buck­min­ster Fuller In­sti­tute



Tif­fany & Co.

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