So, I hate to admit it. I’ve visited Miami 15, maybe 20, times. But it’s only very recently that I’ve actually ventured over to the Miami Design District.
I thought the MDD was all glitzy, designer brand boutiques. And decided I’d be better off giving this neighbourhood a swerve. I stayed in my little South Beach bubble. Which – surf, sand, the odd cocktail – wasn’t too shabby. But – OMG! – I was missing out.
One little visit and I’m an MDD convert. This area is shockingly, amazingly brilliant. Sure, there are the likes of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent kicking about.
But these big-end names are housed in spectacularly designed buildings. And there’s loads of totally cool, underground design and pop up art all over the place. Even the skate park here is beautiful.
If you have even an inkling of interest in art and architecture, you will love the Miami Design District. And just for you guys, here’s a rundown of the design wonders you should definitely pay your respects to.
Miami, FL 33137, USA
I’m going to start with my fave. MDD’s Museum Garage is a multi-storey carpark like no other. Five architects were asked to work on its façade, none of them knowing what the others were up to.
The result is a patchwork of totally different and so-good-they-make-you-giddy designs. Museum Garage has no end of ‘grammable goodies. And, as you can probably see, I just couldn’t stop snapping.
I loved the roof (which you can go up on) – a kind of crazy-colourful playground. And the shadows that get cast on it, changing the look of the design depending on the time of day you visit. It’s like an ever-moving artwork. Pretty amazing stuff.
Museum Garage sits right across the street from the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (which offers free entry all year round). But as that’s a tried and tested, well-known stop, we’re going to hop along to…
103 NE 39th St.
So, I know I said that the big name designers aren’t my kind of cuppa. But the bigshot brands in Miami Design District are about more than just pricey handbags and aftershave. These stores have made a calling card of their architecture and design too.
As a photographer always on the lookout for a spot of symmetry or a sharp line, I was in candy-land. Fendi’s colour block walkway. Louis Vuitton’s latticed façade. And, in my opinion the star of the show, Tom Ford’s concrete, art-deco-styled frontage.
140 NE 39th St.
Just around the corner from Tom Ford (everything is just around the corner in Miami Design District) you’ll find the Fly’s Eye Dome.
The dome – a kind of futuristic home-pod – was designed by American architect Buckminster Fuller back in 1965. He died before his vision could be realised.
Fast forward to 2011 and, using materials not available back in the 60s, the Fly’s Eye Dome has been made into a reality. The bubble sits at the top of a spiral staircase leading up from an underground carpark – another inspiring example of how art is incorporated into everyday life in the MDD.
Moore Building, 191 NE 40th St.
The late Zaha Hadid was (and is) my absolute favourite architect. She wasn’t responsible for the whole of this building, just a small (teensy by Hadid’s standards) installation inside.
Elastika is the right name for it. It looks like stretched out chewing gum (cred to me there for the architectural lingo). But totally beautiful and elegant with it.
I loved being part of another one of Zaha Hadid’s incredible creations. And you can be sure that if Zaha Hadid has worked in a place, the neighbourhood has high architectural standards to live up to.
NE 38th Street between NE 2nd Ave. and NE 1st Ave.
Vortex is a piece of street art that makes your eyes go funny. It’s a little hard to describe this monochrome mind-boggler. But the designers have created a truly 3-D effect that makes you want to step inside and see what lies within.
Just look at the picture guys. It says it better than I can!
15 NW 40th St.
The Living Room is an L-shaped wall that’s been designed to look like the corner of, you guessed it, a living room. Acting as a canvas for ever-changing art exhibitions, this once neglected wall looks different every time you visit.
95 NE 40th St.
Calling the world out on its penchant for single-use plastic, the designer of SOLO Cup has stuck a huge 10-foot cup in the middle of Miami Design District.
Environmental message, climbing frame, bench and prop for many an Instagram false perspective shot, this is another must see on any MDD tour.
You can easily spend a day wandering around Miami Design District. Food and drink are easy to come by when you need to take a break from all the art and archi. And because it’s constantly renewing itself, there’s something original to see almost every time you visit.
If you’re a true art and design buff, try to get over there in December during the Miami Art Basel show. Expect to find the MDD in total design overload with exhibits, installations and events popping up all over the shop.