The Sunshine City - Miami
In the last decade the city of Miami has changed dramatically. Now less Miami Vice and more Miami nice, it has evolved into a sizzling hot spot with world-renowned culture, arts, food and design.
Words by Nick Rice. Photos courtesy of Miami Tourism Board.
If Julia Tuttle were around today she would be thrilled by the positive developments taking place in Miami. Over 120 years ago Tuttle persuaded Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler to extend his railroad from central Florida to Miami and build a luxury hotel. It was the seed for a new town and Tuttle has since been affectionately known as the ‘Mother of Miami’. It is unique in the U.S. as it’s the only city to be planned by a woman.
With a subtropical climate and year-round sunshine Miami has always been a popular holiday spot, but it has also endured tough periods of soaring crime that blighted the city. Now with burgeoning investment Miami has cleaned up its act and reinvented itself as one of the world’s preeminent centres for food, art, culture and design.
Many locals say that the Art Basel Miami Beach fair has been instrumental in putting Miami on the map. This annual art extravaganza convenes the international art world – the collectors, dealers, curators, critics and artists – and hurls them into a frenetic tornado of A-list parties, exhibits and alternative ‘happenings’. Over five days in December artworks by more than 2,000 artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are displayed and discussed by the global art commentariat.
The injection of art has resulted in some staggering architecture and institutions being built, such as the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) – a sustainably designed building with columns of self watering fauna that looks like a glimpse of the future and houses 200,000 square feet of contemporary art.
Once dangerous neighbourhoods have also been transformed. Wynwood was once considered a ‘no-go’ zone but now it’s metamorphosed into the Wynwood Arts District and is peppered with museums and galleries. The Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood has one of the world’s largest private collections of modern art, with over 1,500 pieces by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol. The Wynwood Walls presents artwork outdoors and consists of block after block of vibrant street murals by artists from across the globe.
The massive influx of visitors means the hotel and entertainment industries are buoyant. Miami has the largest concentration of boutique hotels in the world and the restaurant scene is sensational. Home to more than 150 ethnicities and over 60 languages, this cultural whirl is reflected in the cuisine on offer. There’s Cuban, Haitian, Peruvian, Colombian, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Argentinean and much more – a fusion revolution for foodies to celebrate. Miami Culinary Tours offer tours by passionate culinary experts who, in their own words, “let you taste what it’s like to be a local in just a few hours.”
Only a couple of miles from Downtown Miami and less than seven miles from the heart of South Beach is the unmissable Miami Design District. This evolving area of the city is a pedestrian-friendly environment that has been steadily emerging over the last fifteen years since Miami native and entrepreneur Craig Robins started buying and re-imagining properties in the area. Now the Miami Design District is a thriving zone offering the best in luxury, high fashion, design, art exhibits and galleries, dining experiences and architecture.
Phase three of the development is due to be completed by the end of next year and highlights will include the extension of the pedestrian Paseo Ponti, an art-filled plaza with retail buildings designed by world-renowned architects and destination restaurants by celebrity chefs. Not to mention the addition of more luxury brands to rub shoulders with present locals like Bulgari, Céline, Cartier and Valentino. Factor in the world’s largest collection of Art Deco Architecture – more than 800 buildings in the South Beach area – and the transformation from a mosquito infested mangrove swamp in the 1920s seems all the more impressive.
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