Design Destination: Miami advice

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When traveling, always look to locals for guidance. Ahead of our trip to South Florida for Design Miami/ and Art Basel in Miami Beach, as well as other art fairs, we asked Sean McCaughan, the former founding editor in curbed.com’s Miami bureau, for some tips on where to stay and what to see.

The front facade of the Institute of Contemporary Art’s new building in the Miami Design District. COURTESY OF ICA MIAMI/IWAN BAAN PHOTO.


If you’re looking for some luxury while in town, the new Four Seasons at the Surf Club is a nice choice. A historic private beach club with a fresh new Four Seasons Hotel designed by Richard Meier attached, the property melds much that is beautiful about old and new Miami into a grand whole. Plus, if you’re in town for the fairs, it won’t be too far at all from the hubbub, and yet just far enough for a little serenity and quiet on the beach. Its restaurant, Le Sirenuse Miami, is quite the choice for power diners among the billionaire set.

Then of course there’s the Vagabond, in Miami’s MiMo (short for Miami Modern) District, which is particularly popular with the locals. This fabulous 1953 motel cut no corners on design in its renovation a few years back, and yet remains wonderfully casual, and rather affordable as well. It’s a place easy to fall in love with, or maybe it’s just the mosaic mermaid at the bottom of the swimming pool seducing us.

SHoP Architects’ 3-D-printed Flotsam & Jetsam pavilion in Jungle Plaza. COURTESY OF SHOP ARCHITECTS/ROBIN HILL PHOTO.


This is a year of new museums in Miami. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science recently opened the doors of its brand-new high-tech building, designed by Grimshaw Architects, joining the Pérez Art Museum Miami in Museum Park. The Bass Museum is reopening in Miami Beach, following a major expansion by a team of architects and designers including Arata Isozaki & Associates, David Gauld, and Jonathan Caplan of Project-Space.

You’ll be just in time for the December opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, newly built in the Miami Design District, that neighborhood of high luxury and high design. The building was designed by the Spanish firm Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos. Its glowing facade will stand out by its sheer size among the jambalaya of retail buildings designed by a variety of architects from around the globe that are proliferating in the neighborhood. In a plaza a few blocks away, relocated from the front entrance of last year’s Design Miami/ tent, you’ll find SHoP Architects’ 3-D-printed, carbon-fiber-reinforced ABS plastic Flotsam & Jetsam pavilion and outdoor seating court. Glad that didn’t go to waste.

The oculus of the Gulf Stream Aquarium in the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science’s new building. COURTESY OF FROST SCIENCE.

While you’re in the Design District, check out OTL, an airy lunch spot co-owned by the neighborhood’s developer, founder of Design Miami, and fellow design obsessive, Craig Robins. It’s right on Paseo Ponti, the District’s main shopping drag. And as always when in Miami, keep your eyes peeled for new architectural surprises. The ICA is far from the only new building to pop up in the neighborhood lately.

View of Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum building, to be completed in December 2018, from across Biscayne Bay. COURTESY OF ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS.

Inside information

Finally, this is a year to pay attention to one of Miami’s most prominent architectural typologies: the condo tower. Buildings you’ve heard about by the biggest architecture names in the world are either finished or significantly underway: Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’s Grove at Grand Bay, the late Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum, OMA’s Park Grove, Herzog & de Meuron’s Jade Signature, and Piero Lissoni’s Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach, among others. Although none of these buildings is typically open to the public, for the crafty design-o-phile it’s easy enough to buddy up to a developer or make friends with a new resident for your own private ticket inside.

Rooftop pool at Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum building, to be completed in December 2018. COURTESY OF ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS.


In Miami, three boutiques are particularly worthy of note. Heading south from the Design District, check out BASE Wynwood, since January the newest incarnation of Miami’s venerable BASE, which has been selling independent and cult labels and interesting media since 1984. Downtown, Neushop, in the historic Ingraham Building, sells beautiful basics from T-shirts and jeans to wastepaper baskets and toys, and has a regular series of engaging design talks. Godfather to both stores, however, is the esteemed Arango Design Store, on Sunset Drive in South Miami, which sells everything from cutlery to personal accessories and office supplies, all with a modernist sensibility and an astonishing eye for detail.

Racks lining the walls of Neushop in downtown Miami. COURTESY OF NEUSHOP/QIAZI CHEN PHOTO.