An introduction to Arquitectonica's special section on fashion and interior design.

by Andrew Linn

Although Miami’s design community and international fashion scene are clearly thriving, the city’s architectural community does not seem enormous upon first glance. A deeper look reveals a complex network of designers fractured only by each individual’s disciplinary title. The interviews that Arquitectonica has conducted in this issue of Interiors & Sources function more like field work than boosterism, serving to broaden the identity of this group of spatial practitioners to include developers, urban planners, educators, landscape architects, store owners, fashion designers and retail moguls alongside architects. Locals and visitors alike practicing in these fields think and work in three dimensions and make valuable contributions to Miami’s built environment.

Miami’s seasonal nature makes it conducive to a range of temporary events like fashion shows, art shows, concerts and festivals, events that Miami’s designers use as opportunities to showcase their talents to the world. More consistent operations like retail and hospitality services constantly update their spatial identities, tasking designers with creating memorable experiences that stir the emotions of visitors returning year after year, always with the hope of seeing something new.

The relationship between fashion and architecture that Arquitectonica teases out in this issue involve different ideas of time from each designer interviewed. The most basic connection between fashion and architecture has fashion assumed to be an ongoing series of short-term pursuits that are constantly changing and evolving, while architecture is a long-term pursuit that reaches deep into history and aims to create structures that will stand the test of time. 

Arquitectonia’s Miami case study is full of exciting counterexamples to this norm. Miami, with its accommodating climate, pleasure-seeking permanent residents and transient vacation population, sits at the intersections of various geographical regions and routes of commerce, encouraging a transformative architecture that keeps up with styles and trends as much as fashion. Branding strategies applied at a large scale to hotels and condominiums make use of techniques generated in the fashion industry, and are successful with visitors and residents alike.

Miami’s architecture can be short-term just as easily as fashion design can be long-term. The city embraced the fashionable architecture of Morris Lapidus in the 1950s and 1960s; it has been receptive to the boundary-crossing product design, fashion design, interior design and landscape architecture of Arquitectonica since the 1980s; and it has finally grabbed the full attention of members of the contemporary international design scene searching for a city that encourages bold expression.

OMA, always one of the first architectural offices to pick up the scent of an emerging market, is represented here by Shohei Shigematsu, the director of OMA’s New York City office since 2006. Shigematsu joined OMA in 1998, only 10 years before becoming a full partner, and is now responsible for most of OMA’s North American activity. Since taking over, Shigematsu has given the OMA NYC office a personality both in line with and distinct from OMA’s main Rotterdam office, adding a lightness of touch previously missing from OMA’s relatively heavy and bold work. Shigematsu’s appreciation for the speed of the fashion industry is apparent in the office’s use of countless iterations of physical models and samples to test designs at full scale. This reciprocity has led to recent projects with fashion houses and retail stores that have allowed Shigematsu and the OMA NYC office to put their research to practice.

Raymond Fort, son of two of the founding partners of Arquitectonica, is the only other architect and the only local architect featured in this issue. One generation younger than Shigematsu, Fort is just making the switch from academics to practice, having recently graduated from Cornell’s School of Architecture, Art and Planning (2011) and Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (2012). Fort’s childhood was spent in Miami, giving him a longer perspective on the transformations of the city than Shigematsu and many of the other designers recently involved in Miami’s architecture boom. 

At Arquitectonica, Fort is already establishing his own architectural identity (as in the University of Miami School of Architecture building), but as a young architect still learning the trade, his clothes and habits allow more room for expression. For Fort, animations that convey change over time have replaced renderings and a MakerBot 3-D printer has become as comfortable a sketching tool as a pencil and paper. As a connoisseur of the Miami lifestyle, Fort is involved in both short-term and long-term design around the city.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is another longtime Miami resident with a complex perspective on the city. Three years after founding Arquitectonica in 1977 with Andres Duany, Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Laurinda Spear and Hervin Romney, Plater-Zyberk formed the urban planning office DPZ with Duany. Rather than lighting a spark of innovation in Miami, as Arquitectonica aimed to do with its work, Plater-Zyberk and Duany were interested in creating and promoting urban continuity and connectedness, particularly through the ideals of the New Urbanism school that they formed; they felt that it was easier to effect fundamental changes to the way a community works without making radical aesthetic adjustments. Plater-Zyberk explains in her interview that an almost-two-decade long deanship at the University of Miami has given her a platform to identify problems for the city to tackle and to develop UM’s campus as if it were a city in itself.

Like Plater-Zyberk, Mohsen Mostafavi is the dean of a prestigious design school, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mostafavi gives us the historical perspective of fashion’s relationship to architecture, reaching back to places and times that existed centuries before Miami was even an incorporated city. He also points out that the mutual growth between the two that seems to be developing spontaneously in Miami is not new at all, but is instead just given a renewed emphasis today. From Boston, Mostafavi is able to locate Miami in its place among the periods of history in which boundaries between design scales were blurred. Long immersed in student life, Mostafavi sees the fashions that pass through the architectural work of students as equally valid windows into their personalities as their clothing choices.

Plater-Zyberk’s and Mostafavi’s roles as leaders of admired schools pull them into political realms that they eagerly dive even further into with urbanism projects and participation on juries. Jessica Goldman, CEO of Goldman Properties, confronts similarly charged public issues through her dual roles as real estate developer and museum curator. Goldman has been involved in the creation of new neighborhoods her entire life, from her family’s move into SoHo in the 1980s to their move to Miami Beach’s South Beach, where Goldman managed properties after working as a fashion director. Goldman focuses most of her attention these days on Wynwood, which she and her family targeted as a potential cultural district when it was still filled with auto shops and storage warehouses. Embracing the neighborhood’s rugged roots, aside from running her family’s company, Goldman closely manages Wynwood Walls, a street art museum and event space that has quickly become one of Miami’s main attractions.

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