What do Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Pharrell have in common? It may be many things, but Miami is definitely one of them.
One of the things that sets Design Miami/ apart from comparable festivals and trade shows—from Milan’s Salone del Mobile, say, or the Venice Architecture Biennale—is the way it brings outsiders into the design world, and vice versa. This is largely as a result of its coinciding with Art Basel Miami Beach, which brings art-world high-rollers into the mix. But it’s also got something to do with Miami itself.
There are the moments when the obvious beauty of the place and its allure to the wealthy and connected bring them running after the architects and designers (and, again, vice versa) who come down for the fair. When Richard Meier hosted a brunch to talk about his new Surf Club project, the attendees seemed to comprise at least as many journalists as curious real-estate watchers, prospective buyers, and general Miami Beach schmoozers.
Then there are moments of sheer cultural what-the-heck-ness. On Wednesday night, design and lifestyle magazine Surface (for which, full disclosure, this reporter is also a contributing editor) sponsored a panel in the Design District’s historic Moore Building. Participating in the talk were curator and professional interviewer Hans-Ulrich Obrist, architect Jacques Herzog, and Kanye West—as in the Kanye West, Mr. Kim Kardashian, self-proclaimed greatest musician alive and, as has he’s stated publicly in the past, a serious design enthusiast.
West talked about his teen years, when despite the fact that “no one at my school was having a conversation about being an architect” the future rapper and producer would seek out “Dwell, AD, whatever little I could get hold of” to satisfy his design curiosity. His admiration for Herzog, and for the architect’s new Pérez Art Museum, seemed totally genuine, and his voice fairly trembled when he talked about how his fame has given him a privileged view of the design world. “I love being able to go into the studio and see secret buildings I’m not even supposed to know about,” he said.
To say that many of those shoving to get into the function were not the type of people one typically thinks of as eager to attend a design lecture would be to understate the case: these were Miami people, high of heel and ripped of muscle. Where else but here could you stage an event like this; where else but here would putting Kanye and Jacques on the same stage somehow make sense, with the architecture geeks in the audience standing cheek by jowl with orange-toned fashionistas?
Later in the evening and just around the corner, another hip-hop icon, singer Pharrell, punctuated his performance by shout-outs to Design District developer-mogul Craig Robins. Again: only in Miami.