The Miami Design District: America's Trendiest Cultural Hot Spot

Miami Design District Buildings.JPG

Wherever I travel, I make it a point to seek out what is new and unique about the place.  

I like to think I keep up with the latest fashion, food and design trends. In doing my Miami pre-trip research, I discovered the Miami Design District (MDD). This area is often described as the ultimate destination for cutting edge fashion, art, design and culture. That's all I had to know for this to be put on my Miami to do list.

A little background information is in order.

The visionary developer, Craig Robins, is credited with conceiving what I believe is the most happening cultural, urban renewal development in America. Robins began the realization of his real estate development dream by purchasing many run down buildings in an eighteen block area in midtown Miami. His vision was to create a neighborhood dedicated to innovative fashion, design, architecture, dining and cultural experiences. You can view a short video of Robin's plan below:

In the 1970's-80's the area was like a war zone, with many abandoned buildings, which created a hotbed for crime. For his first strategic development move, Robins convinced top designers such as Alison Spears, Holly Hunt and Peter Page to locate here. Next, he lured world-class architects to design building masterpieces in this blighted area. Prestigious Art Basel, followed by many of the most coveted domestic and international contemporary artists, infused the area. Art galleries followed suit and relocated. Later, in 2009, Christian Louboutin was the first fashion designer to risk opening a store. The rest is history.

The best way to adequately paint the picture of what the MDD is today, and what it will be in the future, is to share with you the major elements of culture and design as they are currently evolving. Architecture, art, interior design, food, fashion venues, as well as many exciting pop-up visual and performing arts events, are now filling up the empty, abandoned spaces.

The Miami Design District has Something to Suit the Interests of Every Solo Traveler

Palm Court Dome Miami Design District


The heartbeat of the Miami Design District is located in what's known as the Palm Court. Set among swaying palm trees, the area's focal point is a futuristic replica of the Flyer Eye Dome, a sculpture by the American design genius, Buckminster Fuller. Likewise, you will notice a soothing reflecting pool and a sculpture of modern architecture icon, Le Corbousier. Day or night, Palm Court is a hot spot for many innovative social and cultural events in Miami. When you enter this open air space your heartbeat speeds up. You know you are in a place that has a modern, magical sort of feel. Your mind begins to have random thoughts and you realize this well-designed outdoor space has a special vibe. The solo traveler can certainly feel relaxed and at-ease in this tranquil environment.

R Gallery Miami Design District

From this nexus, the new and innovative development radiates out. Cutting edge condo developments incorporating the latest urban design ideas are popping up all over the MDD. Some of the world's most renowned architects are eagerly participating in this massive redevelopment project. Some of the architects designing for the area are Chad Oppenheim, Walter Chatham and Juan Lezcano. New mixed use projects, shopping venues and commercial spaces are being unveiled monthly. The amount of construction occurring in the area is hard to comprehend in a still somewhat overbuilt Florida, but it's happening here and it's exciting.


As mentioned, one of the most famous, annual international contemporary art shows, Art Basel, has been using the many indoor and outdoor spaces of the MDD to present today's most prominent artists' works, as well as the works of new and upcoming artists. Parties with fabulous food and music occur in the district all during the week-long event. The selection of the MDD to be Art Basel's "in place" created a domino effect causing many exclusive galleries to locate here. A few of these include Wolfgang Roth and Partners Fine Art, Urban Art Gallery, Steve Martin Gallery and the ETRA Gallery.  In a several block area one can view and purchase the finest contemporary art on the market. The solo traveler can spend hours wandering around the grounds, exploring all the various works of art.

Recently, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami opened a temporary location in the district. Plans for a 37,000 square foot ultra-modern facility to be designed by the famed Madrid architectural firm, Aranguren and Gallegos Arquitectos, have been approved. The target date for the new facility's opening is during Art Basel 2016. This exciting exhibition center is expected to be top notch. Watch this video to get an idea of the quality of artistic works:

Graffiti Wall Miami Design District

Whether you like graffiti or not, the trend of letting top graffiti artists express themselves on the sides of old buildings, on free-standing wall, etc., has come to be heralded as "urban cool."

The MDD is host to many thought provoking and highly colorful graffiti works. The message this practice is sending out is that street art expression is valued as an important part of the entire concept of the design district which is to be a cutting edge location for all types of creative activity. My artistic, attorney daughter, Cosima, was the first person to help convince me graffiti walls were valid art and a trend that is here to stay. Consequently, I have begun seeking out these designated graffiti areas around the world to gain a better appreciation from this type of artistic talent.

Miami Design District Fashion.JPG


For the last thirty years The Bal Harbour Shops on Miami Beach have been the ultimate destination for high-end fashionistas. Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Maseratis and the like fill the parking garage. I have visited Bal Harbour many times to see what the latest and greatest in fashion currently is and to enjoy the cosmopolitan air of the shoppers. I rarely bought anything but I still loved to experience the scene.

As mentioned in 2009, Robins convinced the shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, that the Miami Design District was going to be hipper than fabled Bal Harbor. Prada and french fashion designer house, Celine, also were persuaded to locate here. As the Paseo Ponti, the main pedestrian shopping passageway, began to take shape, the high-end domestic and international clientele began showing up. Next, a retail tectonic shift occurred. Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hermes announced they were moving their retail establishments out of Bal Harbor and relocating them in the MDD. By the end of 2015 over forty of the world's top fashion and jewelry companies will have stores in the MDD. Gucci, Diane von Furstenberg, Valentino, Tiffany, Harry Winston, YSL, Marc Jacobs are some of the fashion brands that will fill the retail spaces. One of the first men's Billionaire Shops in America is located in the district. Check out what billionaire men like to wear:


Astrid Sugarcane Restaurant Miami

Even though there are not an abundant amount of restaurants in the area, the ones that are in the MDD are a foodie solo traveler’s delight. One of Miami's most popular restaurants is Michael's Genuine which was one of the first food venues to take a risk on the district. Michael Schwartz, owner and top chef, committed himself to serving only food with the freshest ingredients that are sourced daily. Likewise, the menu changes frequently to stay in tune with seasonal fruit and vegetable availability. Michael's Genuine was one of the first eating establishments in the Miami area to abide by this food philosophy. It was packed when I arrived, forcing me to wait almost an hour to be seated. If you plan to have lunch or dinner there definitely make reservations. Some additional wonderful restaurants include Oak Tavern, McKitchen and Sugarcane's, where I enjoyed steak tartare outside for lunch.

The latest exciting development for the MDD food scene is the announcement that Joel Roubuchon, voted the Top Chef in the world several times, will be opening L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon in the near future. Another international super chef, Georges Vongerichten, will establish his ABC Kitchen in the district. These developments are huge. People fly into the few cities where these chefs have locations just to dine in their fabulous restaurants.


Showrooms filled with the trendiest furniture, appliances, soft furnishings, home accessories and appliances can be viewed and sampled in the MDD. National and international clientele come here with their interior designers to select the latest creations in luxury interior pieces for their homes, condos or offices. Fendi Casa, Armani Casa and Holly Hunt are a few of the A-list interior design showrooms in the district. One of the most popular interiors shop is Jonathan Adler. This video allows you to experience some of the innovative design concepts you will find in this showroom.

The Miami Design District is open seven days a week: Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM and Sunday from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM. It's location is approximately three miles from downtown Miami, five miles from Miami International Airport and seven miles from South Beach. Residents and visitors of all ages and socio-economic groups flock here to enjoy the creativity taking place in the MDD.

In Conclusion:

Whether you are looking for new design ideas, window shopping, doing some serious designer shopping, wanting to enjoy a wonderful dining experience, or just people watching, Miami's trendiest cultural hot spot is the place to do it. On your next trip to this fabulous city, carve out a day or a minimum of a half a day to experience what has been called a "Cultural Wonderland."

To the right is one of the trendiest design exhibitions, Architecture for Dogs, that was held in the Miami Design District. For dog lovers the video should be quite interesting!

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