June 1st, 2007
An Art Showcase
by Ernest Beck
DACRA'S ROBINS, WHO HAD developed a string of glitzy South Beach hotels in the early 1990s, chose as his new focus a stretch of Miami scattered with drab industrial buildings and not much else. He bought some land and buildings there, dubbed the Design District, and began luring high-end home-furnishings stores. Last December Robins' 60-person firm moved in, consolidating its four South Beach offices into a 20,000-square-foot building last used as a car dealership. With its design-savvy vibe and proximity to the nearby Wynwood Art District, the area is "on the edge, a creative lab that is an exciting place to be," Robins says. The refurbished space is an ideal venue to display pieces from his art collection as well as to host curators and art world bigwigs in town for Art Basel Miami Beach and other events.
To create an art-meets-industrial look, architect John Keenen of New York firm K/R installed free-floating walls for rotating art exhibitions, disguising the functional office spaces behind them. "There is a feeling of peace and calm, like being in a museum or gallery, but when you walk to the back it is bustling with activity," says Robins. Keenen installed skylights and left in place metal trusses and the original barnlike wooden ceiling. Robins' light-filled office features a table by Maarten Bass, a Dutch designer who "burns" furniture until it resembles charcoal.
The mingling of art and design with office tasks, Keenen says, parallels Robins' informal way of doing business. Robins says the renovation-which cost about $4 million, including much of the art-made art accessible in an office space. Says Robins: "I wanted to avoid being stuck in a traditional, stuffy, Class A office building in a boring neighborhood, where there is no sense of experimentation. A small business is all about talent and independence, and an office should reflect that.