|Photo by Freeimages.com/Robert Apple|
by Shayne Benowitz, The Daily Telegraph, January 07, 2015
The dazzling hub of Miami's emerging Faena District, theatrical Faena Hotel Miami Beach is the city's most dramatic new hotel.
Conceived by flamboyant Argentinean developer Alan Faena, Faena Hotel Miami Beach is a game changer, something that has never before been seen in the city.
The hotel is one of the first buildings to open in the still unspooling Faena District, located between 32 and 36 Streets on Collins Avenue, which was once a no man’s land on the short drive between South Beach and another row of luxury hotels. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Creek Canal, the area was ripe for development and now this ambitious $1 billion, six-block, eight-building project is delivering it. Luxury condominiums, a shopping bazaar and the Faena Forum arts centre are all expected to be completed by late 2016. The district’s Foster + Partners-designed Faena House apartment block has already set records: having recently sold for $60 million, its penthouse is the most expensive home in all of Florida.
But for travellers it’s the hotel that is most interesting. Faena collaborated with various artists and creatives in its development - including filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (he of Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby) and his Academy Award-winning wife, the costume and set designer Catherin Martin - to create a hotel that provides touches of theatre throughout. A common aesthetic thread linking the hotel's disparate spaces is the colour red and displays of fresh roses, both symbolising love and passion in Faena’s eyes.
Faena, who always dresses in a uniform of white with a corresponding white fedora or top hat, shares a flair for the dramatic with his collaborators: “I see life as an artistic expression,” he told me. “It should be beauty, but it should have intellectuality in the same proportion to beauty. That’s what makes a place special and unique, and this is what I create. I always say to my team: ‘I don’t care about design’. If it’s design only for design, you have nothing to say. I am a storyteller. I love to tell stories. I love to transmit stories.”
And it does feel like every part of his hotel presents a plot twist in some whimsical storyline. Downstairs in the grand Living Room lounge, it’s all silky tiger print and rich ruby hues with a gold, show-stopping chandelier by Alberto Garutti. Ringed with exposed bulbs, it’s apparently attuned to the weather in Pampas, Argentina and flickers in time with lightening if there’s a storm a continent away. By the artist Juan Gatti, shell-encrusted columns flank the buildings exterior; his glistening golden murals elevate the lobby to such an extent that it has been dubbed "the cathedral".
The hotel’s Saxony Theatre, which will stage a cabaret-style musical revue, is draped with an immense beaded chandelier and the accompanying Saxony Bar, a reservation-only cocktail bar in black and silver. It could just as easily be a speakeasy from The Great Gatsby; indeed, everywhere you look the hotel is infused with an imaginative fantasia of vignettes executed to luxuriously sublime heights. “I [think of it as] people coming into our home and making them feel special, helping them to get delight in every detail,” says Faena.
At the outdoors Los Fuegos restaurant (overseen by high-profile Argentinean chef Francis Mallmann), tables look towards the beach and palms sway overhead, while an open-fire kitchen is flanked by colorful seashell-encrusted columns with views of a woolly mammoth skeleton dipped in 24-carat gold. It’s a piece of art by contemporary provocateur Damien Hirst. As one friend put it after seeing a few of my Instagram posts: “It’s like you’re staying inside a children’s book… with a bar.”
Bedrooms and suites are striking too. Feeling a little bit like Satine backstage at the Moulin Rouge, I was taken by my room’s turquoise velvet drapes, which looked as if they were plucked from a proscenium stage, luscious red velvet sofa, overstuffed coral armchairs and plush Deco rug. Elsewhere animal prints, brushed gold fixtures and diamond-patterned wood grain furnishings are used as accents. Bathrooms, many with enormous tubs, houndstooth-tile floor and vanity lamps with vertical arrangements of exposed bulbs, set the stage for a starlet before her big number. For more pampering guests can go to the Tierra Santa Healing House spa, which features New Age-y touches such as amethyst and rose quartz crystals and offers South America-inspired and “shaman-developed” treatments.
Though I live just 10 blocks away, have stayed in most of Miami’s luxury hotels and know the city is welcoming many more high-profile properties in 2016, three nights at Faena Hotel Miami Beach is enough to convince me that its founder has created something truly spectacular. As a final enquiry, I ask Faena why he went to the effort of developing not just the hotel, but an entirely new district around it. His answer is concise: “Because [building an entire district] allows me to create my point of view of how a Utopian place should be.”
Rates at Faena Hotel Miami Beach start at $745 (£500), room-only.
British Airways now operates an A380 daily to Miami, with four nights at Faena Hotel Miami Beach costing from £1349 per person, including World Traveller flights. For dates from January 11 to March 14 and must be booked at ba.com/Miami by February 2.
This article was written by Shayne Benowitz from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.