While Miami Beach's coastline continues to rumble architecturally, an enticing new project is currently underway 20 minutes north in the quaint, low-rise beachfront neighbourhood known as Surfside. With respect to its high-rise neighbours - buttoned-up Bal Harbor to the north and the glitizier, rowdier Miami Beach to the south - Surfside seems cosy and sleepy; but an ambitious new development helmed by Fort Capital at the iconic Surf Club is set to revitalise the area.
The Surf Club, a historic 1920s landmark property set on a nine-acre Atlantic ocean front property, was once a glamorous hidden playground for celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Dean Martin. Not only will the original Russell Pancoast-designed property be completely restored, but Pritzker prize-winning architect Richard Meier has been charged with designing a new 80-room hotel, as well as two residential towers that will feature 157 private residences.
Meier's building designs dwarf its surrounding architecture but he calls his designs 'a continuum'.
'At the Surf Club the Mediterranean style architecture has a beautiful scale and, in that way, is very much related to what we [are] doing here. The scale relationship, the human feeling of moving through the spaces will be very similar.'
The two 12-storey towers, featuring homes and penthouses with private gardens, pools and elevators, also feature interiors designed by Meier. The unifying strategy he says, is the introduction of natural light, the creation of visual corridors, and a priority on opening spaces up to the water.
'The residences at the Surf Club are in many ways related to early houses that I have done, such as the Smith House and the Douglas House, where there is a two-storey living space, a great deal of transparency, and an openness. They will offer the feeling of living in a unique house four or five storeys above the ground,' the architect explains.
The magnitude of this project is the most major thing Surfside has seen in decades. But Fort Capital's CEO, the maverick developer Nadim Ashi, has no plans to transform the Surf Club into a noisy, South Beach-style party zone.
'The provenance of the club, and its wonderful history were unique things that I wanted to preserve and enhance,' says Ashi. 'We're creating something that will be intimate. It's only 150 residences on almost 9 acres, so our density is actually quite low.'
Apart from lassoing Meier, Ashi also brought on Joseph Dirand to design the interiors of the hotel, which will nod to the era that the Surf Club was born. He has also inked a deal with the Four Seasons Resorts to run the hotel property as a five star establishment, and to offer a complete range of concierge services to residents. People staying in the tower property will be granted access to all facilities at the Surf Club, including its restaurants, spa, swimming pool and 815 ft of white sand beach. Surf Club members, meanwhile, will have to wait to access their beloved club again: the property won't be completed until 2016.