Miami continues to establish itself as one of the boldest, brashest corners of the design world. Just this week, a trio of developers announced that Kengo Kuma and Associates will be introducing a new commercial complex in the city’s Design District — an area that already boasts a waterfall-esque façade treatment by Sou Fujimoto and eye-catching sculptures by the likes of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Buckminster Fuller. Breaking with Kuma’s usual embrace of natural wood, early renderings of the project depict a staggered row of fluted volumes splashed in pastel pink and aqua hues. The message: if you’re designing for Miami, you’d better bring some flash.
While Art Basel Miami still sets the standard for outlandish spectacles (who can forget 2019’s taped banana incident?), Design Miami/ has established its own reputation for eye-catching showstoppers — with many designers using the annual December fair to debut limited-edition collections that experiment with creative new aesthetics or techniques. This week, the fair returns for its 19th edition with displays by many of the top international design galleries and brands. To coincide with Design Miami/ 2023, the Miami Design District and other local institutions are staging their own complementary exhibitions and installations (which collectively fall under the umbrella of Miami Art Week 2023).
With all that in mind, here are 5 top destinations that we’re adding to our Miami itinerary.
First up, the main event. International design brands and galleries will unite at the Miami Beach Convention Center to showcase an edgy mix of tables, lighting and other collectible furnishings. This year, Design Miami/ curatorial director Anna Carnick has adopted the theme “Where We Stand,” placing emphasis on ideas about place, identity and heritage. Look for aforementioned architect Kengo Kuma, who will be there debuting a limited-edition line as part of the launch of Aman Interiors, a new venture by the Aman Resorts hospitality group.
Based on Instagram teasers, two other launches have already caught our eye. Working with The Future Perfect, industrial designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams are introducing a limited run of six Moon Pearl table lamps. Each one embeds a different mix of sliced stones into UV-bonded glass. And artist Nick Thomm, known for his psychedelic colour field paintings, will be debuting his first furniture collection, which includes a round orange table with a pyramidal base. The collection is produced in partnership with digital marketplace Basic.Space (which recently acquired Design Miami/).
It’s been a banner year for Alcova, the itinerant design exhibition that has become a fixture of Milan Design Week. Hot on the heels of its biggest Milan edition yet (held in an abandoned abattoir back in April), the show’s organizers announced that they would be expanding internationally with their first Miami chapter this December. For the venue, Alcova co-founders Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima selected the Selina Miami Gold Dust, a 1950s-era motor hotel complete with a courtyard pool.
Among the solo and group exhibitions staged at Alcova Miami will be Uncharted, a show that connects six trailblazing designers (including studio mates Caleb Ferris and N.J. Roseti, who recently impressed us with their latest seating designs back in May during WantedDesign Manhattan) dedicated to exploring new possibilities. Expect the otherworldly offerings to include a cosmic new wall covering by Wallpaper Projects (fresh from collaborating with Gohar World on the trompe l’oeil backdrop to the brand’s NYC holiday pop-up) and a stool by LA’s Studio Sam Klemick that looks to be wrapped in ribbon but is actually carved from wood.
Fashion and design have long been easy bedfellows — and the Miami Design District, with its combination of luxury boutiques and public art installations may be the ultimate testament to that. Perhaps to inspire Design Miami attendees to indulge in a little holiday shopping while they’re in town, the neighbourhood welcomes a new temporary installation each December.
Following in the footsteps of last year’s pool noodle rocking chairs by Germane Barnes, this year’s featured commission is Utopia by Bohinc Studio. Spread across four different areas of the neighbourhood, bulbous cork furniture will join a solar-powered light sculpture and some 900 egg-shaped birdhouses scattered throughout the trees.
Another nearby draw is Andrés Reisinger‘s architectural intervention “Take Over Miami.” The installation builds upon the 3D artist’s digital “Take Over” series, which saw him post renderings that reimagined global buildings wrapped in surreal pink drapes. Miami will mark the first time that one of the artworks from the series has been physically realized. Reisinger’s statement describes the work as a comment about the “fluid nature of reality.”
Along with its many luxury fashion flagships, the Miami Design District is also home to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Unveiled during Art Basel 2017, the ICA Miami’s building (designed by Spain’s Aranguren + Gallegos Arquitectos) established itself as an instant architectural landmark with its triangular metallic cladding. Not one to miss out on this year’s action, the ICA Miami is marking Design Miami 2023 with a feature installation that sees Dutch solar designer Marjan van Aubel team up with luxury auto brand Lexus.
In the ICA’s sculpture garden, “8 Minutes and 20 Seconds” (named for the amount of time that it takes light from the sun to reach earth) will use a combination of organic photovoltaic cells and light and motion sensors to stage an interactive display that speaks to the power of carbon-neutral energy and sustainable design. (Amsterdam studio Random Studio is also contributing to the exhibition’s spatial design.) The installation recreates the silhouette of the recently unveiled LF-ZC (Lexus Future Zero-emission Catalyst) concept car, which previews the next generation of battery electric vehicles.
He may be based in Brooklyn, but Gaetano Pesce is quickly becoming the unofficial mayor of Miami’s design scene. As the 84-year-old told GQ with surprise last December, “There were people stopping me on the street, recognizing me!” Clearly, Pesce’s colourful, gloopy designs resonates with the local crowd. A fixture of Design Miami, Pesce returned in 2022 with Bottega Veneta to sell the resin chairs that he had originally designed for the fashion brand’s spring 2023 runway show.
For this year, he is staging the appropriately titled exhibition “Again in Miami with Multidisciplinary Works” in the city’s Design District. The “time-machine show” will draw on both past and present works, with some pieces designed back in the 1970s but only successfully fabricated for the first time this year. Fun new introductions made of the designer’s signature material — resin — will include an ear-shaped shelving unit and a splashy coatrack. The exhibition will also feature a special edition of the Serie Up chair that Pesce designed for B&B Italia way back in 1969. Limited to a run of just 500 pieces, this new version of the chair is upholstered in a gold (for the seat) and bronze (for the stool) fabrics to commemorate the design winning Italy’s Compasso d’Oro award.
From avante-garde furniture launches at the fair to experimental installations around town, Miami offers a lot to take in. Here’s our guide.