Walk into one of Tatiana Blanco’s parties and you’ll find guests gathered around a blank canvas, not a TV or the kitchen table. “I needed an outlet—a place where I could release my emotions more spontaneously. And I saw that my friends did, too,” says the sculptor from her home and studio in Key Biscayne, a small island town across the bridge from Miami. “That’s when we started making group paintings.”
For the past two years, Blanco has provided a communal canvas for friends and visitors to her home, where the tabula rasa has doubled as entertainment and an emotional escape. When word of its meditative power spread across Miami, catching the attention of a luxury real estate developer, an unprecedented plan—one that merged architecture, communal space, and artmaking—was hatched.
In late spring of next year, the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach, a complex of 111 condos and 15 villas designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni, will open on a quiet corner along the Surprise Waterway, a canal opening into Biscayne Bay. The residences offer a slew of perks: elegant design, ocean views, a rooftop pool, and a meditation garden. But perhaps their most unique feature is a communal art studio—a room that will be flooded with Miami light and stocked with a never-ending supply of materials, from paint and clay to beads and soft metals, available to all residents, those with art experience and without.
“It all started when Ricardo Dunin, a friend of mine who’s also a developer working on the Residences, and I were chatting about the painting events at my house,” Blanco says. “They had some extra room in the building, and we thought, ‘How wonderful would it be for residents to have art materials at their fingertips and an alternative to watching their TVs or scrolling through their phones.’ We have enough of that these days,” she says. Lissoni, the architect, agreed, and plans for the art studio—the first of its kind in a luxury residential building—were set in motion.
The studio will be located in one of the complex’s many communal spaces, all conceived to encourage well-being and interaction among its residents. Blanco’s idea fit seamlessly into Lissoni’s vision for a building that would operate more like a small, seaside Italian village—think Portofino—rather than a typical segmented apartment complex, the likes of which can be alienating, as Lissoni pointed out. “We designed these homes for a new generation—one that wants freedom, flexibility, and community,” the elegant, soft-spoken Lissoni explains as he walks through a model of one of the villas. “The art studio enhances the sense of freedom that really inspired the design the building.”
Blanco echoed the sentiment. “It’s not easy for most people to just spontaneously make art. Even if you do have a moment of inspiration, by the time you go and buy paint or canvas, the idea may already be gone,” she says. “But if you have a space that you know will always be open, stocked with materials, and filled with natural light—and within close range of your home—it becomes much easier to express yourself spontaneously.”
Blanco is advising on the selection of materials that will be on hand in the studio—those that are easily manipulated, cleaned up, and, perhaps most importantly, unintimidating. “We don’t want to alienate anyone,” she says. “Ideally, from kids to adults, people will just walk in, pick up some materials, and make something. Maybe after a dinner party, instead of heading to a bar, you head to the studio to paint over a glass of wine.” And for those residents who still feel apprehensive about entering an art studio sans experience, Blanco will host occasional workshops and classes. “Just to get people going,” she says.
There is one catch: If you want to live in the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach and use its art studio, you do have to purchase a home. They’re priced between $2 million and $40 million.
But as the trend of communal studios spreads—from small DIY operations like Blanco’s original group painting project to these new state-of-the-art condo buildings—it will hopefully touch communities of all kinds, no matter the zip code.