Power of the moment
At the southern end of the district stands the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Built just after the Second World War, its spectacular fan-shaped façade is reminiscent of arms flung wide to greet a cherished friend. This welcoming embrace extends throughout its interior. Even the lobby is a calm and reflective space, rather than the conventional whirlpool of guests and luggage. Soothingly, there is not a single right angle in any of the hotel’s rooms; every corner smooths gently into a curve.
Our ethos here was never about creating a hotel says Alan.
It’s about inviting the people to sleep in our home. I want people to savor the value of the moment, the closeness to nature, the purity of life. Capturing the power of the moment makes us realize how lucky we are to be alive and to be awake.Not long ago, however, this wondrous establishment was anything but alive and awake. For many years, the glorious Art Deco structure had lain as a boarded-up semi-ruin.
The immediate neighborhood had decayed in sympathy.
This part of Miami was a forgotten land Alan recalls.
In fact, Miami used to finish ten to fifteen blocks from where we are now. Thanks to my business partner Len Blavatnik, we were able to gather up all the surrounding land and bring the Faena District back into Miami.
Alan’s vision, however, was initially met with blanket skepticism. The local real estate brokers could not imagine the area as anything other than the no-man’s land that they had always known it to be. There was simply no way, they warned, that people were going to want to come and stay in a hotel there, still less to live in one of the apartments that Alan had conceived.
One cynic even told him that his best strategy would be to cobble together a cheap building on the land he’d acquired, sell for whatever he could, and get out.
I just can’t believe I was the only one who seemed to be able to recognize the potential says Alan.
From the very first time I set foot here, I thought it was spectacular. You’ve got the ocean directly on one side and the creek only two blocks over on the other side – it’s unique! Len and I therefore had to decide: should we listen to the local market wisdom or follow our instincts? We made up our minds to ignore what everyone was telling us and to do what we wanted to do instead.
To realize his vision for living space in his new district, Alan knew he would need an outstanding team.
Quite simply, our ambition was to create the best feeling in Americahe says.
So we brought in Foster + Partners to design something completely different. Rather than an air-conditioned box – like so many Miami buildings are – we wanted an apartment building based on a beach house.
The idea was to invite residents to open their windows and breathe in the fresh air from the ocean.
Although new, the eighteen-story Faena House blends effortlessly into the rest of the neighborhood. Its seductive design clearly draws inspiration from Art Deco. The wrap-around terraces form ‘verandahs in the sky,’ providing the airiness and proximity to nature that Alan envisaged.
Faena House’s public reception confounded local prognostications: all forty-two apartments were sold prior to completion and at valuations comparable to Manhattan’s. The sale of the penthouse set a new all-time residential record for Miami.
We didn’t approach the creation of Faena House as disinterested machines, as so many others would have explains Alan.
The typical developer will often gauge his value from his trophy projects, using financial valuation metrics. I look at a project first and foremost in terms of its soul. This involves asking wholly different questions. Is it alive? Can people grow here? Does it bring about transformation in body and mind. Those are the true metrics of what I seek to achieve.