Like a Florida palm, Design Miami
is growing by the year and casting its shade over an ever-increasing array of galleries and special projects. Now in its 13th edition, the fair hosts 34 galleries from nine countries. Just a short walk from Art Basel in Miami Beach
and across the road from the city’s lush botanical garden, Design Miami has become not merely a satellite event but a collecting destination in its own right.
That image of a sheltering palm tree stuck in my mind as I explored the fair. Although physical shelter is usually the purview of architecture, other sorts of design can also act as a haven, a response to an imperfect world that isn’t always fair, safe, or kind to us.
It’s with this in mind that this year’s Panerai Design Miami/ Visionary Award was given during Tuesday’s preview to the Mwabwindo School, a collaborative project that brought together artists, designers, and architects to build a school in an underserved region of southern Zambia. The project’s aims are holistic: not only to build a school, but also to provide the surrounding community with improved infrastructure and medical services.
When Annabelle Selldorf, founding principal of the New York-based Selldorf Architects, spoke about her firm’s participation in the project, she had a pointed bit of advice. “I’d like to encourage everyone to start building schools in America,” she said. In other words, create change in your own community; find ways to shelter the people around you. This theme seemed to thread through this edition of Design Miami in various permutations. I wondered again and again: How can design be a haven?