Thanks to the vision of Craig Robins, the CEO of Dacra Development and co- founder of Design Miami/, the Miami Design District has been transformed into a cultural hub and destination. Robins began his plan for the revitalization of the neighborhood after successfully reinvigorating South Beach. The district is full of luxury brand flagships, high-end design showrooms, restaurants, and art spaces—including the recently opened ICA Miami, Van Cleef & Arpels store, Isabel Marant boutique, Estefan Kitchen, and Roberta’s. The area is also home to an array of commissioned art, such as new pieces from the Bouroullec brothers and Urs Fischer. Whitewaller spoke with Robins about his master plan.
WHITEWALLER: What made you confident in the possibility of transforming the Design District?
CRAIG ROBINS: I began my career by acquiring properties on South Beach and bringing that neighborhood back to life. A number of the fundamental principles were the same for the Design District—both had storied pasts, interesting architecture, and the opportunity to juxtapose something contemporary with the historic. In both cases, cultural programming was a key factor in getting people to engage and coalesce as a community. With the Design District, we were able to achieve that on a far more sweeping scale. By assembling almost 18 square blocks of properties in the geographic center of Miami, just minutes away from the liveliness of Miami Beach, I felt we would have sufficient capacity to really invent something magical.
We have been able to establish a laboratory for creativity by collaborating with amazing talents, from John Baldassari, Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, the Buckminster Fuller foundation, Sou Fujimoto, Johnston Marklee, Keenen\ Riley; to the world’s major luxury brands; to collectors like Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, and now the Bramans, with the establishment of the new ICA Miami. I always envisioned that, ultimately, we would have the kind of innovative and iconic architecture, public art, and creative expression that we see today—I didn’t imagine how many creative talents would participate so quickly to shape it into being. Their generosity has been inspiring.
WW: How has Miami Design District’s unique combination of art, design, culture, and fashion led to its success?
CR: I think that combination speaks to how people live today. They want to see the best expressions of creativity in all its forms, and at all price points. You can spend a day in the neighborhood grabbing a yoga class, checking out the ICA Miami and the de la Cruz Collection, answering email over a soy latte at OTL, and meeting friends at our free performance series in Palm Court. You could also have a day immersing yourself in the incredible creative output of the luxury brands in the 60-plus flagship stores, each of which has an unparalleled scope of offering and amazing art and design elements, like the Johanna Grawunder–designed Fendi store, or the 10,000-square-foot Hermès flagship, or the Patricia Urquoiola–designed Panerai boutique. And that’s all before you’ve had dinner at Michael’s Genuine, Roberta’s, or MC Kitchen, which will be joined soon by four restaurants from Joel Robuchon and two from Brad Kilgore. It’s hard to run out of things to do when you have the ability to create those kids of combinations.
WW: How important is contemporary art to the Design District?
CR: I can’t overstate its importance and our ongoing commitment. With monumental public works from Zaha Hadid, Xavier Veilhan, Marc Newson, John Baldessari, the new works that will debut as part of Museum Garage, the Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, a shading project from the Bouroullec brothers, a sculpture by artist Urs Fischer, the collections at de la Cruz and the ICA Miami, contemporary art is our visual signature. And in our case, it’s wonderfully populist, as it is presented in the most public way possible—so whether you are a scholar or just want to boost your Instagram feed, there is a way of interacting with these masterpieces.
WW: Can you tell us about the new boutique hotel opening up in the Design District?
CR: It’s still a secret. Shhhhhh.
WW: How do you think the Miami Design District changed the image of Miami?
CR: I hope it has helped tell the story of what makes this city magical—multiculturalism, great creativity, a welcoming and inclusive vibe, and abundant beauty. If we’ve played a part in that, the hard work is worth it.