Lauren Farina: Design District 2021


Photo by Eva Holly of me!/ CC by 4.0

Hi, my name is Lauren Farina and I am a senior at Florida International University’s Honors College, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and a Certificate in Women’s Studies. My goal is to use my undergraduate knowledge and experience towards becoming a Physician Assistant with a specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology.


Map delineating the Design District in greater Miami/ from
Illustration by Daniel Gary-Barnett

The Design District is on the southeast coast of the state of Florida, located just between Wynwood and Little Haiti. The area is about 18 blocks of upscale shopping, art exhibits and installations, and great food. It also borders Magnolia Park on Biscayne Bay which is a primarily residential area sitting directly on Biscayne Bay. The location fits well with some surrounding areas. Wynwood is a stereotypically tourist-ridden place, so these tourists can explore the murals in Wynwood and then make their way over to shop in the Design District. Little Hati is quickly being gentrified and overtaken by its borders with Wynwood and the Design District. The art particularly has made its way through Little Hati. Cost of living is rising which is displacing many of the Haitian migrants that settled there, giving the town its current name. While it is great for a city to flourish and modernize, sometimes the way it happens can be very damaging for some communities. These communities tend to be an afterthought or are ignored completely. There should still be preservation of communities as they modernize. So, the Design District has been a great addition to Miami for economic purposes, but may also be playing a role in (their) unintentional displacement of communities.


The land that is now the Design District/

The Design District is about as old as I am, if not younger. It sits on land that was once a pineapple farm. It later became a neighborhood for families in the furniture business. However, just prior to the 2000’s, the area was falling apart. Craig Robins recognized this and purchased buildings on about 18 blocks to begin the renovation into the Design District.


Education Statistics/

The Design District doesn’t have a ton of accessible data regarding the demographics. It is also probably difficult to solidify because of the high levels of tourism and how young it is. What we do know is that Hispanics and African Americans overwhelmingly dominate this area (as they do in much of Miami). African Americans make up about 44% of the population, Hispanics make up 42%, and Caucasians make up about 10% of the population. The population consists of just under 4,000 people, with women and men equally represented. The most common age group that is observed in the Design District is 25-35 years old. The two most common income brackets are between $25-44k and $75-149k. I also included a graph above of education levels in the area. Feature a bio and portrait of one resident that the student interviewed.


Photo of Tye Rothberg at the Design District taken by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

Lauren: Why are you here (in the Design District)?

Tye: “I am here on vacation, but I am also a photographer and I enjoy documenting my travels through photos.

Lauren: What is your favorite place to go to in the Design District?

Tye: “I really like the David Castillo Art Gallery!”

Lauren: What would you improve about the Design District?

Tye: “I think it’s awesome, but they should include more swings or other playground installations”


Institute of Contemporary Art

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Glass on Body), 1972. Color photograph, 17 1/4 x 24 inches (43.82 cm x 60.96). Purchased with funds provided by Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz.

The Institute of Contemporary Art does an amazing service for the modern art community in Miami. Not only is the institute committed to providing a platform for new and underappreciated artists, but they display it to the public for free! You can find all different forms of art from photography to sculpture. The sculpture garden is particularly amazing It allows for a completely different experience of viewing the pieces. Pictured above is a piece by Ana Mendieta as part of her Untitled (Glass on Body) collection. She was a Cuban-American artist until her suspicious death in 1985. Her work focused on feminism, connections of the body to Earth, and identity through her art. She used herself as the subject of her art often to make statements about her place in the politics of her broader situation. Her work is just some of the thousands of exhibitions that can be viewed at the Institute of Contemporary Art that are so important to the culture and backbone of Miami.

Conscious Actions by GT2P

Photo taken by Lauren Farina of Conscious Actions by GT2P in the Design District/ CC by 4.0

Conscious Actions is such a cool installment in the Design District. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the fancy, upscale stores and amazing architecture in the area, but then you run into a set of swings smack in the middle. It feels almost out of place but it is such a great way to incorporate some fun into your day!

Museum Garage

Photo taken by Vanessa Robiana of me at the Museum Garage/ CC by 4.0

If there is one place that someone visiting the Design District should definitely go, particularly if they want pictures of themselves or with family/friends, I would definitely recommend the Museum Garage. The architecture of the garage is eye-catching in the Design District. When you first enter the garage, it is like any other parking garage, with relatively inexpensive parking in comparison to most of Miami. Once you either walk or drive up to the top, you realize that it is more than just a place to park. The entire top floor is painted in a mosaic of a bunch of different colors. Then, at the end of the top floor there are interactive, almost playground-like installments that make for some awesome pictures. There is a bright pink spiral staircase paired with a rope bridge (pictured above). There is also a slanted wall that somewhat resembles a skate park, with more beautiful designs. It is a lot of fun to go here and experiment with different types of pictures that you can take.


Photo by Giovanny Gutierrez/ Chat Chow TV

Unfortunately Swan and Bevy is the closest thing to green space that you’re going to get in the Design District. This is one of the main downfalls in the area. When rehabilitating the Design District, it seems as though building, innovating, and unique architecture were at the forefront of the process. Green space was not only eliminated, but was also not brought back into the space at all. I went down to the Design District one day, specifically trying to find just one area of greenery that I could write about, but there truly isn’t any. There are beautiful trees that line some of the streets and some nice plants included in the areas that restaurants like Swan take up, but there is no one specific space completely dedicated to greenery. Any landscaping seen is purely decorative.


Metro-mover plan for Miami/

Public transportation is not well instituted in the Design District. However, things may be looking up! It was recently announced that the Metromover will be expanding into the Design District. Pictured above is the plan to expand which will greatly increase accessibility to the area. At this point, the only ways to get there are to walk, drive, or catch an Uber!



OTL Interior | Justin Namon, Ra-Haus Photography

OTL is the cutest little eatery in the Design District. It features the beautiful pastel colors that are signature Miami with modern design and delicious food and drinks. There are plenty of options for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets. I would personally recommend an Egg & Cheese Sandwich with a Banana Quinoa Muffin. It’s a great location too because it sits right at the heart of the Design District so it’s perfect to grab a quick pick-me-up during a day out.


MIAMI, FL – An omelet at Swan in the Miami Design District

Swan is the nightlife of the Design District. There is quite literally nothing else to do there past 6 or 7 P.M. Swan is a restaurant and bar that was curated by David Grutman and Pharrell Williams, both of which have had a hand in much of the aesthetic and design of modern Miami. The menu includes mostly meats and seafoods, with some specialty items typically based around seasonality. Be prepared to spend $100-$150 per person, which is quite the price tag. Definitely a place for special occasions only!

MIA Market

Photo of MIA Market by Pola Bunster

MIA Market is a great way to immerse yourself in food, culture, and socializing. There are currently 9 different places to eat that include Italian, Vietnamese, and Peruvian food, among other genres. There is also a delicious coffee shop within. It’s a great experience because you can walk through and watch the chefs, smell all the different cuisines and decide what’s truly calling you that day.



Off-White interior/

Off-White is a fashion label created by the menswear artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh. It focuses on new and now in fashion and has been extremely successful since its inception in 2012. The idea behind the branding is that there is a “grey area” in fashion between black and white that Abloh likes to call “off-white”. Having this store in the Design District just makes sense. The brand is a baby in comparison to most of the brands in the District, but it is young and modern like the Design District itself!

Warby Parker

Warby Parker interior/

Warby Parker is also young in the world of design. Founded in 2010, it is young and innovative. I chose to focus on it because I really like what they do. They are not an expensive brand by any means. The company was created by students who recognized the inequality to just be able to see and decided to take over the monopoly on eyeglasses. They make custom eyeglasses and sunglasses, but for every pair that is bought, a pair is donated. I think it is important that we support brands like these with stories like theirs because they do give back to the community.


Photo of MONTCE in the Design District by Stephanie Pernas

MONTCE is a swimwear brand that was created in 2009 and took off in 2013. Alexandra Grief is the mind behind it all and she has created a niche in fashion for luxury swimwear. Her work emphasizes women feeling comfortable and confident in their swimwear. She ensures this with inclusive sizing and options for all comfort levels.

Overall, the Design District is an awesome place to visit. While I would say that it is most conducive to someone who has an interest in high fashion, there are many hidden gems in the area that I feel anyone can appreciate. It is very young so I think it is only fair that there is a lot of room for growth. While it has a great foundation, there are some aspects that are missing that would really improve and accentuate the area. One of the main issues that I identified in the Design District is the lack of transportation to and within the area. The Design District itself is very walkable, however getting there is impossible via public transportation. This makes the area very accessible, especially if one does not have a car- which is common for tourists and other visitors to the area. It was great to see that there has been a proposal for the Metromover to expand into the Design District. I think it would be very beneficial, so hopefully it gets approved and the process can be expedited. Another thing that is severely lacking is green spaces. I think there are a lot of cool ways that the Design District can incorporate greenery into a really cool space that allows for nature to be brought back into the area. I’m sure that there is an architect and/or designer that can make a space that functions seamlessly with the area but also incorporates more greenery. I have not read anything about any initiatives to add green spaces to the Design District, but it is my hope that it is on the long list of things that can be changed and improved as the Design District settles and matures. I think that the purpose of the Design District is not particularly focused in small businesses, but it can definitely shift focus to smaller, lesser known artists and designers. With all of that being said, the area has changed and evolved so much in its very short lifespan, so there is a lot of potential for the future. The Design District is definitely a great place to go to take in great architecture, modern art installations, get your steps in for the day, and have some really good food. I would argue that that can be said for most areas of Miami but the Design District is definitely a niche that is unlike any of the other towns in Miami.


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