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TRAVEL

Miami Beach's Faena District

TRAVEL

Miami Beach's Faena District

A hotel, forum, shopping center and more for the cultured traveler

by David Graver
on 16 January 2017

Occupying a stretch of beachfront land from 32nd to 36th Streets in Miami Beach (and reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to Indian Creek Drive), the Faena District comprises a series of architecturally captivating buildings, each with its own carefully considered mission. The hotel, aptly named the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, represents the heart of the destination and opened back in December 2015. One year later saw the addition of a performance Forum. In a matter of months a shopping Bazaar will reach completion. And while these reflects two phases of development, this is just the start. Restaurants within dazzle. The art is more than just impressive for an Instagram post. The Faena neighborhood isn't your average walled-off, all-inclusive resort. It embraces the city—wonders abound. And there's plenty more to come from hotelier Alan Faena's vision for a spectacular Miami with an artistic and cultural core. Below we explore some of the more impressive elements that unite to support Faena's statement that this is area really is a district, rather than just a destination resort.

The hotel structure itself once bore the name the Saxony—built in 1947 but rising to prominence in the '50s and '60s, as a star-studded and alluring spot. Today, guests will find 169 plush rooms and suites with references to Miami's Art Deco past. Faena partnered with film director Baz Luhrmann and wife, Academy Award-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, to imagine and execute the hotel's design language. Anyone who's visited the Faena Universe in Buenos Aires will be familiar with the red velvet. The Miami Beach hotel also invokes its older sister's respect for and use of art. Both inside and out visitors will find works from contemporary art staples Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, as well as many more. It can be argued that its dedication to aesthetic pleasure is its greatest asset—but that would be denying a range of amenities and even programming.

Expectedly, the Faena Hotel comes complete with a series of restaurants and bars. Pao, by James Beach award-winning chef Paul Qui, offers up some of the best mixed drinks (perhaps most impressive, a Bombay Sapphire Clear Negroni) one can find in Miami—on par with almost-neighbor Freehand's The Broken Shaker and the EDITION's Matador Bar. But the seasonal menu makes for a delightful palate pleaser—including items such as Wagyu Carpaccio and Japanese Sweet Potato Katsudon to a gnocchi with delectable pork bits. South American Chef Francis Mallmann's Los Fuegos brings rich Argentinean-inspired meat and seafood fare to the destination. And, of course, the 22,000-square-foot Tierra Santa Healing House should be called out as one of the most thoroughly-considered spas in Miami—with one of the largest hammams available on the entire east coast.

The district doesn't cater only to hotel guests and tourists passing through. The hotel's top two floors are known as The Residences at Faena Hotel Miami Beach. These are beachfront, penthouse residences imagined by the aforementioned design team. Beside the Faena Hotel stands the Faena House—arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in Miami. Designed by Foster + Partners and completed in 2015, this 18-story, 41-apartment high rise blends an indoor and outdoor home experience with extensive wrap-around terraces, which the architecture firm refers to as "verandas in the sky." The first two floors house a pool, fitness center and spa.

Staying at the hotel or living within the residences provide immediate access to two new cultural centers—one which opened its doors during Art Basel and another forthcoming. The first is Rem Koolhaas's OMA-designed Faena Forum. It's name is rather telling. Referencing the Roman Forum, this 43,000 square foot facility has been designed as a public cultural center for large performance art gatherings—but has a dynamic construct to allow for an array of programming, intimate to large-scale. Two spaces, a cylinder and a cube, can be used independently or together. The upper floor assembly hall impresses with a 40-foot-high dome. This will be a center for Faena Art programs as well as private events.

Faena Bazaar, the second of the three developments with Shohei Shigematsu, partner at OMA and Director of the New York office, as the lead architect, happens to be an open-air shopping center. We attended the opening of Maison de Mode at the venue, but the full retail experience will not be complete until mid-2017. Faena himself, along with fashion consultants Kelly Framel and Zach Lynd hand-selected the brands on site. The open-air construction, surrounding a central courtyard, lend the space a breathability. And visibility within the building make wandering through its levels leisurely.

With 1111 Lincoln—a parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron—one of Miami's most important architectural figures, it makes sense that Faena would develop his own architectural car park. At 28,000 square feet with room for 235 cars, OMA's Faena Park is a functional wonder-work. Precast concrete with angled perforations yields a modern façade that embraces the surrounding weather. This valet-operated facility sports elevators that maximize stowing to guarantee functionality. As one is always in need of a place to park during Miami's busiest days, and with the expected influx of people to the district with its continued developments, this is a handy, well-considered addition to the location.

There's another surprise to the compound, as well. Casa Faena, formerly known as (and still branded on the structure as) Casa Claridge, is a Mediterranean-style boutique hotel off-shoot of the Faena Hotel. A small 50 room guesthouse, the building was built back in 1928 and a restoration preserved original details like the terrazzo flooring. There are two bar areas within, one of which rests beneath the four-story interior atrium. Generally, this is an even quieter destination, removed from the beach—but with Faena's love of the arts it quickly transformed into a theater in the round back during Art Basel, under the watch of Perrier-Jouët champagne and Simon Hammerstein.

From a geodesic dome constructed on their beach strip during Art Basel to screening rooms and endless areas warranting furthering exploration, the hotel—and the district beyond—knows no bounds. As Miami's tourism appeal continues to balloon, the Faena District presents a new way for the city to look at tourism: a comprehensive destination to meet all traveler needs that encourages guests (or residents) to get out and walk. Yes, an entire vacation experience can happen on the grounds—but no spot that that foregoes walls in order to embrace a city wants people to remain idle.

Hero image by Kris Tamburello, hotel and pool images by Todd Eberle, Pao image by Nik Koenig and Faena Bazaar and Faena Forum interior image by Iwan Baan

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