As Miami slowly emerges from the settling dust of this unprecedented building boom, one of it’s greatest assets, the quality of design, becomes more and more evident. The DESIGN DISTRICT, in what is now known as the Midtown area is poised to become the poster child of sorts, for what is possible when carefully planned and designed neighborhoods are given the chance to consider all aspects of dynamic urbanism.
True to its name, the design district is, step by step, illustrating what will become a global model for excellence in contemporary architecture. Led by Craig Robins and his development company DACRA, this vision seems to be in very good hands. Robins first led a resurgence of Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and transformed Allison island into the unique urban enclave today known as Aqua at Allison island. Robins’ exciting choice to invite many different architects to design both single family homes as well as midrise condos seems to have been a precursor to his strategy for the Design District. With luminaries such as Hariri & Hariri, and local brilliant designers such as Alan Shulman and Alison Spear, it seemed a venture guaranteed success.
While the earlier achievements of DACRA played out on the fertile grounds of the absurdly underappreciated Miami Beach, in the early nineties, the task of reinventing the Design District still goes on now as the red hot real estate market has undeniably cooled. The tranformation has in truth been a long steady process. World class showrooms of furniture and interiors products have one by one re-located to the district. Recently some of the most significant purveyors of exceptional contemporary design, Luminaire, and Ligne Roset, have joined the longtime retail strongholds Kartell, Abitare and Fendi CASA.
Many architecture and design firms transplanted themselves several years ago, at the very beginning of the changes, urban design pioneers, including Shulman and Oppenheim Architecture + Design, who are now slated to have no less than three major mixed use towers rise in the district. It was with the revolutionary plans for the Design District that Oppenheim stepped in an entirely new direction for the firm with the projects, CASA, CUBE and COR. While it remains to be seen, when and if we will these buildings rise. They will most certainly contribute to the area truly becoming a haven for savvy aesthetes.
As is the signature of DACRA development, several lesser known, yet stellar firms design firms have been asked to contribute to the final vision for this exciting neighborhood. Keenan/Riley have contributed design for several smaller buildings, including a hotel and a two story building for galleries to be fronting Biscayne Boulevard as the gateway into the Design District.
As is often referred to here at transitmiami.com, the smaller, pedestrian friendly edifices, are one of the most essential elements to creating a thriving neighborhood. Geared to walking and moving in and out of several retail establishments, at a scale that is conducive to just such activities, and as the visual representation of the neighborhood, the interesting architects Robins selected and the buildings designed for these parcels give great promise to the area. These come following in the footsteps of the much heralded Oak Plaza, one of the recent major steps in the districts future plan.
Miami has always had a unique tradition of both experimentation and excellence in design. A quality that many find as gratifying as the beautiful beaches and climate, and sets Miami apart from anywhere else in the U.S. Where else could be better for this legacy to continue than the Design District. From it’s earliest development to Art Deco. From Morris Lapidus’ influence with the Fountainebleu through the International Style and Miami Modernism and right up through the present with Arquitectonica and Oppenheim. While the building boom of towering condominiums may have reached its peak this actually makes way for the other work that needs to take place to make the great city a reality For small infill projects that will be the thread to hold the fabric of the new skyline together and create a livable city, a city used by its citizens, with the backdrop of a stunning skyline. Any number of designs such as this beautiful, forward thinking building by Columbia school of architecture instructor Craig Konyk, that invite, even insist on the interaction of people with there urban environment is the way to go.
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