Hi-Lo-Tech: Raymond Fort

Raymond Fort, a new designer at Arquitectonica and a seasoned Miami mainlander, reflects on the transformation he’s seen across the city in the last decade and explains how his lifestyle reflects the direction he envisions for Miami’s future.

Raymond Fort, a new designer at Arquitectonica and a seasoned Miami mainlander, reflects on the transformation he’s seen across the city in the last decade and explains how his lifestyle reflects the direction he envisions for Miami’s future.

ARQ: How do you perceive the intersection of fashion and architecture?

Raymond: I think that if you’re an architect and you strongly believe in the ideas that you’re putting into a building, it’s really difficult to dress any other way than the way that you’re thinking.

ARQ: So you have to dress the part.

Raymond: Yeah. Otherwise, your ideas, they don’t matter then. It’s like you don’t care about what you’re building.

ARQ: There’s always been a contrast in what people wear in Miami, because people are on such different missions. Can you speak to the colors defining who you are in this town of ours?

Raymond: Personally, I’ve never had anything really giving me direction in choosing colors. I’ve always had a problem with that and I can’t say why. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a town where there are so many colors that the obvious, different thing to do is to not put on colors.

ARQ: Do you ever experience the intersection of fashion and architecture in your work? Is there an element of fashion that influences your designs for office buildings, school buildings or condominiums?

Raymond: Yes. Most of the websites that I browse are actually fashion websites, and they’re not websites where you purchase clothing. They’re just websites that admire fashion. I’m actually only just now coming to the realization that these companies or individuals who just post images of fashion culture, not just fashion, have so much to do with living in architecture. When you look at an ad for fashion, they’re advertising a lifestyle, and when you look at an ad for any condominium, especially for those that are going up in Miami where you have a lot of marketing, they’re also selling a culture of living. So really, we’re trying to sell the same thing.

ARQ: Miami is in a sort of transformation right now. And you’re really in the middle of it, someone who bikes and walks more than they drive. Not a lot of people in Miami do.

Raymond: If I could choose how the people in the renderings produced by Arquitectonica dressed, I would gladly dress everyone in the scene.

ARQ: And how would you dress them?

Raymond: Well, it depends who you are. And I think we do that already to a certain extent in our renderings. We try to capture the neighborhood atmosphere by putting the right people in it, but it’s always difficult to find the right people to put in your renderings. It’s definitely a challenge, especially with the high standard of realism in renderings today.

ARQ: We’ve been struggling to figure out the style of Coconut Grove because it’s not particularly bohemian anymore, it’s a very amorphous neighborhood in transition.

Raymond: It sounds a little bit like the design for automobiles. My current lifestyle, which is maybe the analogy for how the city is evolving right now, it’s like the automobile industry—ironically, because I really dislike it. All the cars designed today are really not anything. They’re just these blobs. They’re afraid to do edges, they’re afraid to do too many curves, they’re afraid to make it too long, they’re afraid to make it too short. All these cars, the bodies are somewhere in this middle range that no one can really dislike. In turn, I really dislike it. I guess Miami’s architectural scene is like the Wheel of Fortune. We’re not sure where the ticker is going to point after this period is over.

ARQ: Right. But I think that each cycle of that sort results in the next step.

Raymond: But what are we moving towards? What is the step towards? Is it a step down? Is it a side step? Miami’s development is happening on the mainland, and while there may be a lot of projects happening in Miami Beach, what’s experiencing the most dramatic change is mainland Miami.

ARQ: Miami is seeing a major shift in its population.

Raymond: In thinking and in culture. Miami Beach will always have the tourists and it will always have the beach. It might be under water one day, but those elements are going to be with the city until it dies or sinks. Miami, on the other hand, is like a teenager becoming a man or a woman.

ARQ: How do you think that our new office building has affected Coconut Grove? How has the Arquitectonica headquarters being here changed the culture of the Grove, or has it?

Raymond: Being that Coconut Grove is Miami’s old city, it’s like walking into the old section of an old European city, right? There are streets that take you nowhere. You get disoriented very quickly. The difference is that we’re not in an urban setting in Coconut Grove. We’re in a very densely green area, yet it’s still dense with people. I think it’s something like 17,000 people per square mile. And Arquitectonica’s headquarters acts a lot like that weird moment you might encounter in a really disorienting city center. You walk by, you think you’ve found this odd gem, and then there’s a courtyard in the middle and it looks mysterious and enticing to walk into. And it’s true, when you see people pass by it, they’re curious, not only of the vegetation that’s on the perimeter of the building because we have an edible perimeter garden, but they approach the main entrance, there’s this view and it’s a very serene and quiet courtyard. So it’s like finding that moment in an urban city where there’s a little bit of peace and quiet. And it’s really the inverse of Coconut Grove and of an urban core. In an urban core, usually when you find that courtyard that’s green, you’re escaping the concrete jungle that’s outside of it. But in this case, being that our building is completely exposed concrete, you actually have found the concrete courtyard in a jungle-y neighborhood.