Miami is known for big statements, fast lifestyles and its vaunted heritage. But it’s much more culturally astute than ever before, perhaps unsurprising as it’s the spiritual home of art deco. It was a chap by the name of Craig Robins that challenged South Beach and turned into the high-end party haven its known as today. But if South Beach is the wild child, Mr Robins has more recently created its soulful sibling.
Approximately five years in the making the arts and culture scene has taken a front row in Miami, and just outside of South Beach is an achingly hip neighbourhood known as the Miami Design District. A gentrifying endeavour that fuses high-end fashion stores, restaurants, art galleries and architecture. Like most modern cultural quarters, the sordid history of the area is riff with crime capers et al. But Robins, has proven his track record of galvanising Miami, and has already significantly changed the landscape with his vision of what design can and does mean today.
With over 70 galleries, retail stores, museums and collections the Design District is just a mere 12 blocks. Already featuring the Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Dome and Elastika – a site specific installation by Zaha Hadid, “mutating the historical Moore building into 1921”. Also the Sou Fujimoto building façade, a major point for the pedestrian centric area, “inspired by the flowing movement of waterfalls and Miami’s tempestuous rainsqualls”. Brands like Bang & Olufsen, Boffi and Armani Casa also make up the design furniture aspect of the neighbourhood adding kudos credibility and perhaps most importantly, an affluent community. In respect of everyone’s favourite cultural needle, fashion houses like Alchemist, Burberry, Celine, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens have jumped in, helping bring a certain sophistication. With Zadig & Voltaire and Tom Ford on their way, the Miami Design District is way passed underground, its arrived and giving old favourite destinations like Bal Harbour and Lincoln Mall a run for their money.
While just south of the District is Wynwood – formerly a working class area, Wynwood is one of Miami’s coolest neighbourhoods. It is home to the open-air museum Wynwood Walls – featuring the very best of Miami street art. Often referred to as Little San Juan, the district is also the home of the Rubell Collection – one of the country’s top private collections of contemporary art, owned by siblings Jason and Jennifer Rubell, the nephew and niece of the late Steve Rubell co-founder (along with Ian Schrager) of Studio 54 in NYC. The collection features works from Jean Michel-Basquiat, Keith Harring and Damien Hirst.
Whether it’s climate change or a shift in cultural dynamics, the area of Brickell, used to be the part of town that hipsters would drive through – fast, to avoid being seen, but things have changed. With hip neighbourhood restaurants and often regarded as Miami’s past and future, favourited by locals because its high and dry. Restaurant chain Coya recently opened, serving up a mix of Peruvian and Japanese flavours set within a dramatic environment. Also Tobacco Road, Miami’s oldest bar has seen and survived it all, they host regular rock, jazz and blues nights that turn out quite the crowd. And after 101 years of trading, they’ve seen it all. Also Blackbird Ordinary is anything but ordinary, voted Complex Magazine’s “best concert venues in the nation”, there’s a regular programme of movie nights, ladies nights and yes, a happy hour.
Meanwhile, back on Miami Beach, perhaps the biggest change in recent years is the development of Miami Beach itself, featuring some of the most achingly hip hotel brands on the strip. With Schrager’s The Miami Beach Edition offering that trademarked “hotels as theatre” and slicker than though service etiquette – plus an in door ice rink and bowling alley. A W hotel has also found its feet, featuring the legendary Mr Chow’s restaurant and perhaps the most striking pool area in Miami complete with wet deck and cabanas. Also along the strip the eco-warrior 1 Hotel and of course the recently opened Thompson Miami Beach.
Image courtesy of Miami Design District