In the urban Brickell neighborhood of Greater Downtown Miami, Florida, also known as the city’s financial district, stands a magnificent newly built 40-storey glass building with funky balconies and geometric shapes. Within it, Swire Properties and Swire Hotels opens its signature hotel, EAST, Miami. Tonje Odegard takes a closer look…
Containing 352 guestrooms, eight suites, and 89 residence suites, plus a remarkable 20,000 square foot outdoor pool and deck, Swire has used groundbreaking architecture and natural designs to construct this stunning and playful luxury hotel.
To complete the company’s first project in North America, Swire Hotels worked closely with award-winning Miami-based global architecture firm Arquitectonica, internationally renowned New York design studio Clodagh Design, art curator Indiewalls, and LA-based designers Studio Collective. Using modernist designs, the hotel aimed for a fun and relaxing vibe to fit the multi-dynamic lifestyle of today’s traveller. By combining art, interior design, technology and architecture to work as one, EAST, Miami has done just that and created a hotel where you experience your surroundings rather than observe them.
Known for its humanistic and modern design, Arquitectonica has always used bold, playful shapes, angles, patterns and geometry in their work – an approach evident in EAST, Miami. The local firm has however outdone themselves this time, pushing the structural limits of what is possible, while allowing themselves to stay true to their playful attitude. This is particularly obvious with the expansion of the hotel’s pool and deck, which required the architects to lift up the east end of the tower. When the structural columns and shear wall needed to come down, Arquitectonica avoided it looking straightforward and concrete by puncturing the wall, without destroying its structural integrity. The result – a wall with holes in it, now playfully referred to as ‘the cheese wall’.
The three characteristic angular-shaped pillars on the pool deck, visible from the street, was another creative solution. Anne Cotter, Vice President of Arquitectonica, said: “They work almost as sculptural elements as well as structural necessities.”
A further inventive move from Arquitectonica was the jazzy balconies. “The skin of the building can be used to add another layer of interest,” says Cotter. “There’s the dynamic between the building’s reflective glass exterior, which changes throughout the day, and the playfully shaped balconies.” The balconies are randomly placed at upper and lower levels; creating the effect that water is trickling down from the top of the building. “There’s a poetry to the reality,” Cotter says.
The architectural vision, according to Cotter, was to find a balance between a business clientele and people coming for relaxation – so the marriage of a mature facade with fun shapes and patterns works perfectly. With the help from talented designers, the vision has truly come alive.
And the interiors are nothing but fantastic. Sophisticated, fresh, individual and natural – each tells a story and creates a journey for the guests. Everything from the infinity mirror in the futuristic lifts pierced with light, to the urban graffiti on the stairs, it is clever and calculated. Responsible for everything except the restaurants and bars, the fabulous Clodagh Design has used textures, colours and furniture to create subtle visual clues to transport the guest throughout the hotel. Bridges and pathways provide transitions from one experience to the other, using lighting as a navigational tool to guide guests and enhance their understanding of the design. This is apparent in the vestibules, where in the main vestibule, you find vertical lights in orange, and in the other vestibule, in true feng shui style to counter the energy of the orange lights, you find vertical lights in turquoise. There is also reflective glass to mirror the lights, creating a constant and vivacious energy around them. The colours of orange and turquoise are also portrayed on the pool and deck, with the water carrying a fresh, tropical turquoise shade, with orange parasols and sunbeds.
The studio is celebrated for its approach to design of embracing ancient and cutting-edge methods in order to comfort both the body and the mind. “It’s about translating comfort into design, and it’s about making the invisible visible through the feeling of comfort,” says Clodagh, Principal of and the woman behind Clodagh Design. To do so, the design studio has addressed all the natural elements and all the senses when creating spaces. “We use feng shui, landscaping, bio-geometry and biotherapy concepts to create a harmonic vibe,” Clodagh says. “Often this manifests itself only in a piece of art or furniture, or in the correct choice of lighting.” Nancie Min, Design Director at Clodagh Design, and the main designer involved at EAST, Miami, explains how energy healer, Alberto Amura, created bio-geometry symbols that resonate with the energy of calmness, happiness and purity, and are imprinted on the floor of the guest lifts and on the walls of the guestrooms.
Bio-geometry is the science of energy through shape and is part of the design throughout EAST, Miami. For instance, when you walk into the lobby – a bold, dark and muscular silver travertine with a rough finish – you are met with a giant comfort feature; a water fountain that pours water into a reflective pool. “It defines the space without confining the space – you can see through it and the water breaks up the energy,” Clodagh explains. “It’s energising, but tranquil at the same time,” adds Nancie.
The guestroom bathrooms are covered in pale oak and smooth, frosted glass finishes in natural colours, which create a calm and earthy feel. The suite bathrooms have strong, stony surfaces and floors, also in organic tones, with golden teak cabinets. There are wooden-textured floors, made by Porselanosa, in the guestrooms too, with bold floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing natural light to flood the space. Dark interiors and wooden furniture work as contrasts to the pale floors and drapes, balancing the energy of the rooms, making them comfortable and intimate.
The residence suites bring shades of silver and blue, to a dark oak backdrop. Plush velvet sofas complimented by subtle soft furnishings, accompanied by strong wooden coffee tables really make the room feel at ease.
On level 38 and 39 of the slender tower, you find the hotel’s conference and event spaces. These rooms are unique to Miami and to most hotels, as they have skyline views of the city instead of being buried in the lower levels of the hotel. The Crush is the main event space on level 39 with a 270 degree view and The Shrubbery can be found on level five.
Working closely with local and national artists, Clodagh Design and art curator Indiewalls selected work including sculptures, paintings and photographs that highlight Miami’s scenic locales, drenched in a palette of blue, yellow, white and amber. The individualised collection consists of custom commissions, sculptures and framed prints. The area of Miami Beach and the Brickell district is all quietly represented in the design and art.
EAST, Miami’s two distinct restaurant and bar experiences – Quinto La Huella, a parrilla grill inspired by Uruguay’s beachside Parador La Huella – and Sugar, a rooftop bar and green garden located on the 40th floor, were both designed by Studio Collective. The colours of Miami are represented in the main bar in Quinto La Huella. The bar carries a deep ocean green, but when it opens for cocktail time, it has a stunning orange back. Even when the bar is closed, there is still light behind the screen, so that the whole piece becomes a giant, vibrant lantern, and therefore an art piece in its own right. The log-pile bar that surrounds the grill adds to the hotel’s earthy, natural atmosphere.
Studio Collective drew their inspiration for Sugar from the lush jungles of Southeast Asia and took an organic approach to the décor. Upon entering, you pass through a lavish corridor of trees, stepping into a crisp, green oasis. Cocoplum, fragrant Star Jasmine, local Sea Grape and Japanese Privet surround the sofa pits and comfortable daybeds. The bar’s initial entry is built upon irregularly cut charcoal quartzite, which gives a natural feel to the space as it climbs out of the busy urban landscape below.
At the centre of Sugar you find a Balinese-inspired bar built of reclaimed oak with hand-carved teak barstools. On a deck made of Brazilian teak, between the fresh trees, you find natural wicker club chairs, upholstered ottomans and aged teak sofas.
This setting resonates well with the hotel’s forward-thinking and green focus. The biggest testament to its environment-friendly approach is the CLIMATE RIBBONTM, which frames EAST, Miami’s fifth floor and forms an architectural canopy over the expansive pool deck. A masterpiece of art and science composed of steel, fabric and continuous glass surface, the CLIMATE RIBBONTM is a U.S Sustainability element spanning over 80,000 square feet. EAST, Miami will achieve an LEED certification, citing resource efficiency by using less water and energy, as well as a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
So after nearly three years of planning and development, EAST, Miami finally stands before us in all its grandeur. A remarkable construction, filled with personality, attitude and trailblazing design and architecture. EAST, Miami is an architectural treasure that has truly become a central part of Brickell City Centre.