At the turn of the nineteenth century, the world received genius in the form of Walt Disney. He spoke to the creation of magic where it didn’t exist and perhaps more fittingly, where it seemed impossible. Naysayers and dis- believers vocally doubted the potential of one Mickey Mouse and the concept of an animated, feature-length film in Technicolor was scoffed at. But then Snow White won 8 Oscars. “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” where amongst Dis- ney’s famous phrases. In our day, the Walt Disney of the brick and mortar walks among us; the one who dreams larger than life and who sees beyond what most can fathom, if you will: Alan Faena.
He’s widely known as a visionary. And as a char- acter, he ranks at the level of those of storybook fame what with his signature white ensemble, complete with white hat and feather. With refer- ence to any admirable successes or achievements he’s made, as the saying goes, he should have quite a few feathers in his cap.
He revolutionized fashion at eighteen with a line dubbed Via Vai that started with tee shirts and ex- panded to dabble in jeans and pret-a-porter at a time when that kind of fast fashion wasn’t as seen coming out of Argentina. He made oversized sweaters when the trend was tight and expressed the newfound freedom of his homeland through his forward designs. Revenues surpassed some $30 million annually and in 1995, he sold. He moved to Uruguay and harnessed the power of his ideas and the parameters of his imagination through the practice of yoga. Apparently the pa- rameters weren’t too confined, for Faena’s next feat involved challenging his green thumb. He proceeded to attempt to plant a rose garden in an area where such a thing was ludicrous, as the land would not permit. And as he tends to do in the face of adversity, he created his own hybrid rose, aptly named Faena, that would thrive where he needed it to. A few years later and pregnant with ideas he returned to Buenos Aires at the turn of the century to embark on a journey that would forever change the landscape of the city. In what were the abandoned, derelict docklands of the old port of Puerto Madero, Faena found where to plant his next rose.
Little did he know that this would be the first of what he today has coined as a collaboratory—a laboratory of collaborators who work together to create an inspired reality. Along with still partner Len Blavatnik, he proceeded to create a $200 mil- lion project that would meld art, architecture, culture and design—a formula that still stands firmly at the forefront of his holistic approach to creation—that today is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Buenos Aires. Creating a hotel, residential building and arts center, Faena charmed both architect Philippe Starck and Lord Norman Foster’s firm, Foster & Partners, into de- signing their first South American projects as part of his burgeoning district. And they weren’t the only ones he charmed. Faena also recruited Ximena Caminos, then curator at Buenos Aires’ Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, under the in- tention of wanting the theme of his Puerto Made- ro district to be art. Needless to say, his now wife obliged and she’s never left, continuing on her quest to “make Alan’s wish a meaningful reality with true impact.”
Almost like a traveling circus of genius design minds, the collaboratory traveled to Miami to work together on the December 2015 opening of Faena Hotel Miami Beach, the first element of the highly-anticipated Faena District Miami Beach, another of Faena’s neighborhoods with culture at its core. Faena District continues to unravel be- fore our very eyes with eponymous components punctuating Collins Avenue from 32nd to 36th Street. Alan and Len organized their talents once again on these one-of-a-kind environments that aim to deliver cultural, residential, hotel, retail, restaurant and public content as expressions of art, design, nature, technology and service.
The remaining parts of the puzzle are slowly com- ing together with the help of new collaboratory members; each masters of their own craft. From gardens designed by landscape architect Ray- mond Jungles to residential interiors assigned by film director/producer Baz Luhrmann and Acad- emy Award winning costume designer Catherine Martin, everywhere the Faena light touches is an amalgamation of absolute precision and atten- tion to detail sprinkled with their own brand of fairy dust.
The integral parts of Miami Beach’s Faena Dis- trict are six-fold. Aside from the Faena Hotel, Faena Forum, Faena Art, Faena Park, The Resi- dences at Faena Hotel and Faena House each with a unique purpose and special design ap- proach.
The Residences at Faena Hotel Miami Beach in- clude a dozen beachfront residential unites that occupy the top two floors of the Faena Hotel. It was actually Blavatnik who suggested hiring Luhrmann and wife Catherine Martin as the de- signers for the interiors after he saw The Great Gatsby at the Cannes Film Festival. The film’s art direction and party scenes were less than un- inspiring for the mood they were trying to achieve. Similarly available in the residential space is Faena House, the Foster + Partners luxu- ry condominium that stands erect at 18 stories. The architecturally advanced building focuses on creating a true indoor/outdoor experience by way of sprawling panoramic views and its signa- ture Argentinian aleros, otherwise known as outdoor living terraces.
The most recent additions come by way of Fo- rum, Bazaar and Park. Designed in collaboration with OMA, the firm founded by Rem Koolhaas, the three structures round out the Faena Miami Beach experience by engaging art, music, culture and retail.
Faena Forum, as the name suggests, is evocative of the ancient concept of a forum, only more for- ward thinking in its content. The Forum is dedi- cated to presenting and showcasing the ambi- tious, the innovative and the groundbreaking in fields ranging from art and entertainment to business and beyond. It will also offer Miami a dynamic setting, allowing for ongoing program- ming under the direction of Faena Art, as well as use by private companies, institutions and indi- viduals that will populate it with private events, conferences, fashion shows and design exhibi- tions throughout the year. The retail arm of the OMA-designed threesome, Faena Bazaar, in- tends of shaking the groundwork of the tradition- al retail experience. Curated in the way one might consider a museum or gallery to be carefully se- lected, the interesting and unique combination of brands have been hand-selected by Faena and collaboratory members and fashion consultants Kelly Framel & Zach Lynd. Together they support the development of emerging talent in the same space where they celebrate labels that have reached a desirable level globally. The third entity and one popular to the Miamian who drives on the daily is Faena Park. The state-of-the-art park- ing area is more than a parking garage; it’s a piece of architecture to be celebrated. At 28,000 square feet, the structure features a mechanical system while a highly designed façade references archi- tecture often found in South America.
All in all, the project has been blossoming amidst the lackluster offerings in Miami’s Mid-Beach which many have described of late as neglected. It’s fitting, since the Faena rose is blooming proof that Faena has a way with blossoms. But then again, what else would you expect from such a magic, kingdom.