December 1st, 2008
Home Miami Magazine
Craig Robins: Designing a District
Walk through the Miami Design District with Craig Robins, even in the course of 3 three-block stroll, he is on the alert, thinking about this urban place he's been central in creating. "Design should be integrated into a more complete neighborhood," he says. "Design needs to be combined with really good art, with fashion, with food."
The District has a new vibrancy these days. Start with the more than half-dozen restaurants (and still more on the way). Then note the growing list of new showrooms - Team 7, Clima, Dune Living, 4141 Design and more. To that, add fashion. The Japanese-born store Y-3, which opened just a year ago, was the lone pilgrim until it was joined by En Avance. Recently, Robins has signed Marnie and Thomas Mayer. "Design will do better and make a bigger contribution when it's part of a larger context," says Robins.
Some years ago, Robins - his first investments were in the Miami Beach Art Deco District and he built Aqua - began buying both buildings and land in the dozen or so blocks flanking Northeast 40th Street. The area was suffering; DCOTA in Dania had lured away numerous showrooms and the designers who shopped them. With empty storefronts and empty streets, the Design District often seemed almost derelict and at best, a daring venture for Robins' firm Dacra.
In partnership with the City of Miami, he persuaded the town planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (she is Dean of Architecture at the University of Miami) to develop a long-range plan for the district. Soon, Robins began to travel the world in search of new high-end, high-design tenants stipulating that - contrary to general practice - any showroom leasing from Dacra had to be open to the general public. Robins hired a number of well-regarded architects to give facelifts to existing buildings and design two new ones on 40th Street, He also brought in artists - among them Jose Bedia and another husband-and-wife team, Roberto Behar and Rosario Mar-quardt - to create eye-catching large-scale public projects.
Then came Design Miami, which assured the district a place on the international cultural map. "It's taken a lot of energy to make this into a place," says Robins. "We were lucky to get great people to join with us. But it's required tremendous persistence, and it still does."
Still to come are the refinements. Robins is contemplating a 53-valet parking system with drop-off points at six spots in the district ("with check-out umbrellas," he adds). The arts patron Rosa de la Cruz is starting construction on a "collector's museum" at the corner of Northeast 41st Street and North Miami Avenue. And Robins is talking with additional fashion retailers as well as hoteliers. "There is no neighborhood in the world quite like this," he says. - Beth Dunlop
ART + DESIGN
Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 And Beyond
How quickly time flies! It's December, and Art Basel Miami Beach is with us again. Art Basel is an extravaganza - with more painting and sculpture (and performance art) than one could ever dream of, or for that matter, see in a week. And for the most part, it's all here and gone in a flash. Starting below and on the pages that follow we look at the more lasting side of Art Basel - permanent installations, museum exhibitions and more, those gifts to the city that start with Art Basel and stay with us, for the month and seasons to come.
Now & Later
One of the most talked-about public installations during Art Basel Miami Beach week - December 4 through 7,2008 - is Ana Linnemann's The Invisibles, In conjunction with Art Projects 08, Linnemann will install a life-size palm tree in Miami Beach's Lummus Park. Every two minutes or so, the tree will suddenly spin in place. The reactions of unassuming passers-by should make for a fantastic YouTube video. A more lasting addition during Art Basel is Simpson Park. Nearly bulldozed in the 1970s, the park will finally get its well-deserved grand entrance, designed by Chad Oppenheim and Enzo Enea, at the corner of South Miami Avenue and SW 15th Street thanks to efforts by the City of Miami and funding from the Audi Corporation. Phase 2 of the project, still without funding, is dedicated to the preservation of the park. - Scott Cunningham artbaselmiamibeach.com
Design Miami veterans will remember the puppy dogs that consumed Luminaire's windows two years ago as part of an auction called Puppy Love. This year the auction is back as Paper Love, and Luminaire has
enlisted a who's who of world-renowned artists, designers and architects to participate. Visionaries such as Ron Arad and Zaha Hadid were asked to create a two- or three-dimensional object using paper as the principal medium. Initial reports from the 51 entries suggest that the results are stunning. See for yourself at the Luminaire Lab in the Design District, or better yet, buy one during the silent auction that runs through Design Miami/. All proceeds will go to The University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. True design mavens will want to attend the VIP dinner and reception on December 4, where the 10 best designs will be auctioned off live by Christie's. - SC 3901 NE 2nd Ave., Miami 1305 576.5788 | luminaire.com
Design Miami/ is not just about design. It is about a way of seeing - furniture, objects, buildings, cities. For a week this month, December 3 through 6, this show that in just four years has become one of the world's most important, transforms the Miami Design District into a great outdoor (and indoor) museum where many of the world's most important dealers (we profile four of them here) will exhibit furniture and the decorative arts. From the avant-garde tent designed by Aranda/Lasch to the exquisite exhibitions in almost every one of the district's showrooms, Design Miami/ is a feast not just for the eyes but for all of the senses.
The Heart of It All: The Aranda/Lasch Pavilion
Architects Benjamin Aranda and Christopher Lasch are no strangers to Design Miami/. Their furniture, including a chair composed of 350 truncated aluminum tetrahedrons, has been a hit of the fair since 2006. One cabinet was bought by Design Miami/ principal Craig Robins. But even with collectors actively seeking their work, the two young men were surprised by what happened when Robins and Design Miami/ director Ambra Medda visited their Lower Manhattan studio last May: The pair commissioned them to design a temporary structure to house this year's design fair. In the past, the fair has been based in the Moore Building, a historic edifice, albeit one updated each year by the likes of Zaha Hadid. This is the first time Design Miami/ will have its own building, a 40,000-square-foot structure that rises to a height of 40 feet - putting ArandaXLasch front and center when the world's design aficionados gather.
The duo graduated from Columbia University's architecture school in 1999 and began making a name for themselves as proponents of a design based on algorithms and a close study of natural phenomena, such as the growth patterns of nanostructures. They are often depicted as eggheads, designing according to formula. But, as they see it, they are simply using formulas to create design vocabularies, which they then employ freely in the creation of beautiful objects. The ultimate decisions are aesthetic.
Already, 2008 has been s very good year for Aranda/Lasch. First, one of their pieces - a wall relief of interlocking, three-dimensional hexagons - was a hit of MoMA's show Design and the Elastic Mind. Then, after three years of collaboration with the British artist Matthew Ritchie, they transformed Ritchie's sketches into a building-sized sculpture, which debuted in Seville. A version was later shown at the Venice Architecture Biennale. And now comes Design Miami/, on which the architects teamed up with EventStar, a tent company based in Miami.
Aranda/Lasch first decided to give the tent a large breezeway, easing the transition from outside to in (something tents don't normally handle very well). Enclosing the breezeway is 8,500 square feet of trans-lucent vinyl, laser-cut into elaborate patterns, based on fractal geometry. The sliced and diced vinyl will continue to evolve during the fair as Aranda says, "It will be acted on by wind and rain and people." Among the booths inside the pavilion will be one for Johnson Trading Gallery, whose founder, Paul John-son, was better known for selling pieces by mid-century great George Nakashima and Paul Evans, before he began taking on a new generation of designers. Three years ago, he met Aranda and Lasch in a bar on the Lower East Side. Now he is grooming them for Nakashima-level stardom, with a booth showing their new furniture as well as a version of the MoMA wall relief. The tent, at least so far, is not for sale. -Fred A. Bernstein Intersection of NE 39th Street and 1st Court, Miami designmiami.com
Design Miami/: Four Galleries
To find Christina Grajales, you have to know where you're going. The offices are tucked into an unmarked building on a SoHo sidestreet. That obscurity belies Grajales' impact: she is a gallerist, curator, educator, dealer and designer herself with programs that spread across Manhattan from top to bottom from lectures to exhibitions to art installations as well as international showings in Basel and London. A particular interest of Grajales is what has grown to be known as "green design." Among those she has introduced through her gallery is Sebastian Errazuriz, a Chilean designer whose work involves the reuse and remanipulation of entire (already fallen) trees to create tables, desks, shelving systems and more. - Beth Dunlop cbristinagrajales.com
Johnson Trading Gallery
Canadian-born Paul Johnson founded Johnson Trading Gallery to feature the work of young and emerging designers. The gallery does feature important older modernist works, but Johnson's focus is on showcasing and even commissioning works by designers who are almost unknown. The trip from anonymity seems to be a rapid one, however. A year ago, the name Aranda/Lasch might have elicited a "who?" from most; this year, the architects created the primary exhibition space for Design Miami/. Similarly, Max Lamb - a British artist who works primarily in stone - has emerged quickly from obscurity with a one-man show at the SoHo gallery this fall. -BD johnsontradinggallery.com
Donzella 20th Century Design
Paul Donzella moved into what had been the artist Jim Dine's studio at 17 White Street in Tribeca 11 years ago, and opened his more-or-less eponymous gallery there. He'd long been interested in design, but the large space opened a whole world for him. "It hit me really fast," he says. "I started feverishly buying literature." Today Donzella 20th Century Design shows and sells furniture and decorative objects that run the gamut from simple to intricate. One focus is on Italian designers from the late 1960s and early 1970s, though another is California design from mid-century. Donzella himseif is the guiding light behind the offerings, "I always try to find things I'm not going to get tired of," he says. - BD donzelia.com
R 20th Century
R 20th Century was created by Evan Snyderman and Zesty Meyers in an effort to both present and preserve the history of modern design. "We've never followed the herd," says Meyers. Adds Snyderman: "It is always about discovery." The two regularly invite a curator (this fall it was the photographer and styl-ist Michael Reynolds) to produce an exhibition of his or her own making at the Tribeca gallery. Snyderman and Meyers have also begun publishing a line of books to bring less-well-known designers to tight. Too, R 20th Century has been in the forefront in exploring the world of Brazilian modernism, an important new area for scholarship. "We're storytellers," says Meyers, I can tell you the story behind every object here." - BD r20thcentury.com
Design Miami/: News & Notes
Designer of the Year
For years, Brazilian-born designers Humberto and Fernando Campana of the Campana Brothers have toyed with the imaginations of their audience, weaving social commentary into their furniture designs. This year, their efforts and contributions to mass-produced and limited-edition design are being recognized: the inventive duo is this year's recipient of the Designer of the Year Award at Design Miami/. In the tradition of this annual festival, the Campana Brothers have created Diamantina, an installation erected at the fair. Diamantina is derived from the team's recently debuted TransPlastic collection. The brothers have employed the branches of the Apuf plant, a native of Brazil that chokes the rainforest trees, and Brazilian amethyst crystals to weave around plastic items such as garden chairs and tires. The result is a series of biomorphic islands meant to engage and declare nature's triumph over the synthetic world. - Megan Aquilina Intersection of NE39th St. and 1st Ct, Miami designmiami.com
Banners of Persuasion
The art of tapestry making has seemingly faded in recent years, usurped by the more familiar mediums of paint, pencil, ink, photography, ceramics and wood. But in the upcoming show, Demons, Yams and Tales, the handwoven stitch and silk thread are making an artful comeback.
Three years in the making, this traveling exhibition, on view at The Loft during Design Miami/, is the result of 15 internationally renowned artists - Peter Blake, Francesca Lowe, Shahzia Sikander to name a few - shedding their familiar and practiced art forms and delving into the potential of wall-hanging tapestries. Examining subjects both concrete and abstract, these artists adapt beautifully, and provocatively, to the "soft" canvas. Case in point: Fred Tomaseili's Migrant Fruit Thugs (shown), which expands upon the hallucinatory visions he often depicts on his wood panel works. - MA 3627 NE 1st Ct., Miami | bannersofpersuasion.com