As Miami readies itself for Art Basel and Design Miami, the city’s Design District has been filling in apace. What was – even just a year ago – a patchwork of luxury stores has become a neighbourhood unto itself. From his fourth floor office window overlooking the district, real estate developer Craig Robins points out the highlights: restaurants there, art galleries here, and shops everywhere, with hotels and plazas on the way.
One of the big markers of change was the recent opening of a new Hermès flagship. Designed by Paris-based architecture firm RDAI, the boutique is a glass-clad volume surrounded by a grove of steel rods, all painted white and varying in thickness. ‘The climate is fantastic all the time,’ says director of RDAI Denis Montel, explaining the design team’s decision to enclose the store in clear glass. The rods, which offer a measure of privacy, speak to Miami’s environment. ‘The sunlight is so strong here, so the bars create a vibration and a shadow,’ Montel explains. ‘I was inspired by the roots of banyan trees,’ he adds, referring to the layered effect the tubes create.
Inside, the rods and glass create a brightly lit space connected with the city’s environment. ‘Miami embodies a dream, a bit of paradise,’ says Hermès CEO Axel Dumas, gesturing to the blue skies outside.
The three-storey boutique includes a ground-level space for Saint-Louis, the preeminent European glass-and crystal-making company, and a rooftop terrace, planted with trees. RDAI also included a tree in an alcove on street level, which will provide dappled shade in the store and on the sidewalk. ‘I wanted it to seem like we organised the building around a tree,’ explains Montel.
Hermès marked the occasion of its opening with a parade through the Design District and later with a Flamingo Party that played on Miami’s very colourful cultural heritage.
Back at his office window, Robins draws attention to the canopy of mature trees that line the street, done by Nathan Browning of Island Planning Corporation; like those at Hermès, they animate the rooftops and cite the district’s landscape design. ‘This is a real neighbourhood now,’ he says. ‘The trees make all the difference.’