The pyramid of pristine sand planted in front of the Design Miami pavilion by New York architectural firm Formlessfinder might have been a homage to the city's beachfront positioning. But it also happened to be very fitting for this year's fair, which was underpinned with organic qualities. From materials like metal, glass and ceramics, to sculptural shapes and body-adorning jewellery, many designers appeared to be edging back to the comfort of natural forms and the satisfying, handmade processes of the past.
'I love it,' gushed Simon Haas, one half of the Haas Brothers, as he petted 'Audrey', a seal-shaped night light crafted from the duo's signature gold metal tiles and sprouting acrylic hair, on show at the R 20th Century stand. The designer added, 'I'm so happy to see more human forms. I really think it's a backlash against square perfection.'
In addition to their beastly creations, the Haas Brothers also dabbled in hand-thrown ceramics, employing the stubbly, imperfect surfaces that proved to be a hot zone this year. Also the same booth, particularly alluring was a 1950s rosewood dining set by Brazilian architect Joaquin Teneiro. 'We opened the doors on the first day at noon and by 12.15pm I'd sold it for a half a million dollars,' beamed dealer Zesty Meyers.
From porcelain stools by Djim Berger at Gallerie BSL, to bulbous vases by Magdalene Odundo at Pierre Marie Giraud gallery and Morton Espersen's contemporary pottery at Jason Jacques gallery, it was hard to tell what was made today or in the 1890s, as in the case of Pierre Adrien Dalpayra's exceptional collection of vases (also at Jason Jacques).
Even super slick materials, like Corian could be transformed into the natural, as was the case of the magnificent peacock feather chair created by Uufie at Rossana Orlandi or steel that was pounded into paper thin petals in geologically tinged stools by Kim Sang Hoon at Gallery Seomi.
Floral and fauna sprouted like weeds across the fair, from the vibrant brass petal screen and carnivorous plant lamp by Taher Chemirik at Galerie BSL, to the petal strewn cabinets and torch lamps created by Maria Pergay in collaboration with Fendi.
Collaborations with non-furniture companies continue to be catnip for designers and the good news is that most of them look meaty, and some, even, terrific. Dutch designer Simon Heijdens created a new light installation of water-filled, hand-blown glass vessels that looked like purple potion hanging from honeycombs for Perrier-Jouët, while Swarovski collaborated with Brazilian architect Guilherme Torres to create a net-like, synthetic tube installation that was inspired by water conservation and mangrove forests.
Outside of the fair, the main action continues to burn across the bay in the Design District. Here, Wallpaper* held court with a showcase of greatest hits from our annual Handmade exhibition, supported by Jaguar, recently presented in the windows of London's Harrods store. Berluti had a thoughtful collaboration with Maarten Baas, who designed a valet, fan, shoe mirror and lounge chair in his trademark resin-based clay. 'It gets hard naturally, so you have a lot of freedom,' said Baas of his preferred material. Meanwhile, Maison Martin Margiela presented its avant-garde new jewellery collection ‘Crystalactite’ in conjuction with Atelier Swarovski, and premiered ‘Stalker’, an exclusive installation by French artist Baptiste Debombourg. At Luminaire Lab, sinuous 3D-printed jewellery by Daniel Widrig and tables by Tokujin Yoshioka made their debut.
Miami's skyline continues to change as new buildings rise, like the impressive Perez Art Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, where Vionnet debuted a film by Tim Walker. Brazilian developer Alan Faeda is renovating eight blocks of South Beach water front property that will include buildings designed by Rem Koohlaas, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin. Further north, the city's historic private members club Surf Lodge, founded in 1930, is being polished and beefed up with a new apartments being built by Richard Meier.
Charlotte Perriand, another gem from the 1930s, turned out to be the woman of the week. Not only was a 1959 collection from her home, Maison a Monmarte, featured at Galerie Downtown, but the prefabricated beach house she originally designed in 1932 finally became a reality - thanks to Louis Vuitton - and installed at the Raleigh Hotel on South Beach.
Indeed, mid-century design continues to be a thriving sector of the market. From the 1968 stainless steel daybed and cocktail tables by Maria Pergay at Demisch Danant, to the playful cookie cutter trimming on Jean Royère's furniture collection at Galerie Jacques Lacoste, Design Miami's offerings were irresistible.