The Biscayne Times

Aug 17th
Miami Ironside Hosts the Design Crowd PDF Print E-mail
Written by Helen Hill, BT Contributor   
June 2015

A local arts complex makes a splash with its new French partnership

A Ironside_1Saturday morning in mid-May, and Ofer Mizrahi is in a celebratory mood. The previous night, his Miami Ironside complex had reverberated with more than a thousand people enjoying a Fête du Design as the finale to a lively four days of talks and exhibitions.

The design-themed events reinforced Miami Ironside’s role as an official partner of the prestigious, Paris-based Maison&Objet, which held a design show at the Miami Beach Convention Center that ran May 12-15, opening for half a day to the public on its closing day.

This was the first M&O trade show in the Americas, with 300 brands representing 24 countries. (Maison&Objet launched an M&O Asia trade show in Singapore earlier this year.) With Miami and Miami Beach looking like two of the hemisphere’s most vibrant, diverse, and creative cities, the show will likely become an annual event, according to its organizers, in the style of Art Basel. A second Miami show is already scheduled for next year; and Ironside recently announced its next M&O Americas celebration for May 10-13, 2016.

Ironside_2During the final evening’s fête, visitors checked out showrooms and studios, sipped colorful cocktails from Brasserie Azur, and feasted on Neapolitan pizza and nitrogen ice cream provided by businesses within the Ironside complex. With a jazz trio playing in the background, the place rocked Miami-style as locals and visitors mixed, milled around, and practiced Spanish greetings and air kisses.

Counterpoint to the festivity was a talk and public performance by Mel et Kio, French wall artists who created pieces for permanent display at Ironside.

Miami Ironside’s green oasis of active workspace, studios, and glass-fronted stores has come a long way from its origins in 2003, in a group of gritty warehouses along NE 4th Court between NE 74th and NE 77th streets in Miami’s Upper Eastside. Mizrahi recalls his vision for a collaborative environment and creative incubator to fill warehouses he no longer needed for his business.

Ironside_3Iron beams within those warehouses helped inspire the Ironside name, together with the FEC railroad tracks at the back of the property. The developer still enjoys the sound of trains chugging by, masked somewhat by a curtain of greenery.

“Over the past six or seven years,” says Mizrahi, “I’ve seen Miami Ironside grow into a living organism for creative people who want to be with other creative people.”

The campus’s 100,000 square feet sprawl through buildings linked by outdoor pathways and accented by lush landscaping. Businesses include architects, interior and landscape design groups, specialty stores for bathrooms, eyewear, lighting, fashion, furniture, and floors.

Mizrahi’s original company, Coverings Etc., occupies the northern section, with displays of stone and composite materials for walls, floors, and countertops. An unexpected yet harmonious mix of art galleries, a boxing and fitness center, a hair salon, Car2Go drop zone, bocce ball court, and event centers coexist and thrive. A central plaza forms the campus focal point, bringing visitors to eat and drink at the Limited Edition Caffé & Vino Buono, Ironside Pizza, and F27 Nitrogen Ice Cream store.

Several new businesses were launched at the fête, bringing occupancy to near capacity, according to Mizrahi.

Creativity on a local level bloomed during the four-day celebration honoring M&O Americas, with an installation presented by practicing professionals, faculty, and students from the Florida International University (FIU) College of Architecture + the Arts (CARTA). With the theme of “Innovation and Integration in Digital Fabrication,” the installation explored the relationship between hand-crafting and digital production.

Ironside_4“There is a dialogue as one influences the other,” notes Prof. John A. Stuart, associate dean for cultural and community engagement, and curator of the installation. “We’re pushing boundaries as people making 3D objects in digital mode craft them with the same intensity as traditional craftsmen.”

Stuart explains that FIU’s association with Miami Ironside grew from a mutual understanding of the challenges that arise from taking the past into the future, as exemplified by Ironside’s adaptive reuse of industrial buildings.

The week of events began with a talk moderated by postwar design expert and collector Al Eiber, M.D., of Miami. Noted Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet discussed his original chair designs for Kartell, as he perceived how chairs react to the architecture of the human body. Quitllet, who also designs office furniture and other collections for Vondom and Lexon, said while he understands design industry needs, he enjoys breaking rules to create new directions.

Ironside_5The next day, early birds were treated to breakfast at the bocce court with Brazilian designer Zanini de Zanine, selected by Maison&Objet as designer of the year, and curator Roberto Cocenza discussing the Balance Project Boom SP Design, “a reimagining of childhood swing sets fitted for gardens and city squares.” (Boom SP Design is a Brazilian architecture/art forum.)

Later, a salon talk on “American Architecture and Design -- America Made Us” moderated by Professor Stuart, generated some informed buzz among local cognoscenti Terence Riley, Kobi Karp, Nick Gelpi, and Deborah Wecselman.

Rounding out the presentations were an exhibition of 26 large-scale contemporary works by artist and sculptor Stefan Szczesny on the theme of “St. Tropez meets Miami,” works that were on view during Art Basel; and the opening of the first U.S. solo exhibition of French street artist Fred Le Chevalier.

Miami Ironside ended the week in festive mode with its exciting campus collective and fête. Mizrahi says he’s happy he could make Ironside happen. “There’s synergy and cross pollination here,” he notes. “Each person brings their own value, and everyone benefits from it.”


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