It was only fitting that the first stop on the itinerary for this year’s Design Miami/ should be the offices of real estate magnate Craig Robins. Robins, after all, is the godfather of Miami design—the man who saved the Art Deco treasures of South Beach, who helped found the Design District, and who’s been a guiding force behind Design Miami/ since the fair’s inception eight years ago. On the cusp of the ten-megaton artistic-commercial ballyhoo that is Design Miami/ and its sister fair Art Basel Miami, Robins was ready to show off his latest brainchild.
“It’s fifteen new buildings in all,” said Robins, gesturing at a screen in the offices of Dacra, the umbrella company through which he operates his combined cultural and development enterprises. On it appeared renderings of new buildings by progressive architects like Sou Foujimoto, Benjamin Aranda, and Chris Lasch, with names like Hermes and Louis Vuitton splashed across their gleaming facades. After transforming what had once been a neighborhood of abandoned warehouses into a thriving quarter of high-end design boutiques, Dacra is in the midst of reinventing the Design District again—this time as a haven for ritzy clothiers, part of a deal completed last year with luxury uber-brand LVMH.
“This will hopefully make this a really unique place,” said Robins. Walking beside him down what will one day be the stylish arcade of the Paseo Ponti (named for famed Italian designer Gio Ponti), where a Buckminster Fuller bug-eye dome will be the centerpiece of a new courtyard flanked by fashion retailers and a garage with an oversized John Baldessari mural, it was still uncertain how unique the place would likely be—though since it remains little but rebar and dirt, one has to give Robins the benefit of the doubt. Certainly the view of the District atop the landmark Moore Building, where Dacra hosted post-tour drinks, made it clear that there’s still room to build in the area, with empty lots affording an unobstructed view of one of Miami’s pastel-packed sunsets.