Legend has it that when the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Rat Packers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin visited Miami in the glamorous Fifties and Sixties, they would head for the Saxony Hotel – commonly known as The Queen of Collins Avenue. Fast-forward several decades and a new palatial residence has taken its place, thanks to the Argentinian former fashion designer and eccentric hotelier Alan Faena.
Fast on the heels of his extraordinary transformation of the Puerto Madero – a formerly down-at-heel docklands district in Buenos Aires – into a buzzing cultural centre, this creative eccentric has turned his sights on the neglected four-block Mid-Beach neighbourhood of Miami. Together with business partner Len Blavatnik, the vision has been to create the Faena Arts District with far-reaching architectural, design and cultural initiatives and ambitions. At its beating heart is, undoubtedly, the Faena Miami Beach Hotel.
Like its predecessor, the new hotel attracts the movers and shakers of the culture scene —the likes of Baz Luhrmann, Rem Koolhaas and Damien Hirst all have a creative hand in the hotel that anchors Miami’s hottest new art district. ‘Our goal was to bring the best minds together in order to re-imagine the Saxony and create a holistic environment that would change the face of Miami, acting as a catalyst for a cultural renaissance in the city,’ Alan Faena explains.
Filled with more-is-more drama and panache – from staircases to chandeliers, soaring gold pillars to staggering artwork – there’s an other-worldly movie-set glamour about the hotel’s imaginative renaissance, which surprises at every turn.
Eccentric entrepreneur Faena loves telling design stories, such as the one that begins in the Cathedral – or lobby – with a series of artwork by renowned Argentinian muralist Juan Gatti. ‘The murals are particularly meaningful to me because they were inspired by my life and the journey we all experience,’ he says.
The lofty murals in vibrant hues employ over 2,000 gold leaves and depict a fertile, utopian land named Futopia (the ‘F’ is for Faena and for ‘future’), and a journey of self-discovery. On this floor, more than 632,000 mosaic tiles continue the fabled story of Futopia.
The vibrant sitting room features bold leopard-print upholstery set against rich Faena Red – the owner’s signature colour – velvet.
The space is dominated by a deco-inspired Alberto Garutti chandelier that intriguingly flickers each time lightning strikes in the Pampas lowlands of Argentina – a quirk that reminds Faena of his homeland. Meanwhile, the hotel’s signature restaurant, Pao, is anchored by a massive gold-leafed dome, under which stands Damien Hirst’s gilded bronze unicorn, aptly entitled Golden Myth.
Not surprisingly, the hotel’s 169 rooms and suites also showcase theatrical drama. Here, film director and producer Baz Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, were involved in creating a tale of opulence, introducing lamps of coral, seashell-encrusted jewellery boxes, animal-print ottomans and Frank Pollaro furniture, all set against a backdrop of – naturally – Faena Red, complemented by turquoise to match the bright Atlantic views.
The hotel is a fitting introduction to the ongoing creation of a wholly original neighbourhood that includes Norman Foster-designed luxury condominiums; a performance and cultural centre and an innovative shopping space, both designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas; residential towers; and an art-centric 50-room boutique hotel.
‘Our approach at Faena is different to that of a traditional “developer” who works sequentially, starting with an architect, then adding art and design elements,’ Faena explains, when asked what makes this project unique (aside from the obvious sensory overload). ‘We specialise in the creation of one-of-a-kind holistic environments anchored in cultural experiences.’ The Faena Hotel most certainly succeeds.
Images by: Supplied