Melanie Rodriguez: Miami Design District 2020

Photo of Melanie Rodriguez by Kezia Moros (CC by 4.0)

Melanie Rodriguez (she/her/hers) is a second-year, first-generation student at FIU’s Honors College pursuing a double major in English (Creative Writing) and Exceptional Student Education (Foundations and Policy) with certificates in Exile Studies and Women and Gender Studies. As a Global Learning Medallion student, Melanie is a part of FIU’s inaugural Millennium Fellowship cohort working to advance the United Nations’ 4th Sustainable Development Goal, Quality Education. Melanie currently works as Culture Shock Miami’s Program Coordinator at Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs and is also Tutorial Coordinator for FIU’s TRiO Student Support Services Program. In her spare time, Melanie is an editor and writes for Make Muse, a magazine and magazine agency based in New York that encourages “young womxn smashing societal standards.” Her goal is to enact social change by combining her passion for the arts with her dedication to activism and youth education. 


Map retrieved from Google Maps

Delineate, define, and describe the neighborhood you have selected. This section must include a map and original photographs by the student of the neighborhood. The student should describe both the urban and natural landscape.


Provide a thorough, researched, and cited history of the neighborhood.


Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

List population and characteristics of residents (age, gender, income level, cultural roots). Feature a bio and portrait of one resident that the student interviewed.

Interview with Design District Local, Is Perlman
Photo of Is Perlman by Is Perlman (CC by 4.0)

Is Perlman (they/them/theirs) is a 16-year-old junior at Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) in the Visual Communications strand. Is explores the intersections between gender, sexuality, religion, and systemic underrepresentation and inequity through installation and performance art. DASH is located in the heart of the design district, so the area has been present in their life as both an artist and a student for a couple of years now. Two years ago, Is joined the Young Artists Initiative at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, another institution located in the Design District, and as a part of their program, they have done public performance art in the district itself.

Melanie: What do you like about the Design District? What do you dislike about the Design District? 

Is: Of course, the aesthetic appeal of the Design District is undeniable. Seeing designers’ work translated to immersive spaces (such as the museum parking lot) is a unique experience that is particularly inspiring as a young designer. However, it is difficult to navigate the area without being made painfully aware of its financial and social inaccessibility. Most spaces in the design district are imbued with elitism, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that students often receive strange looks from those patronizing stores and restaurants. The growth of the Design District is undeniably built upon gentrification, and, although the space is gilded and glamorous, it is unquestionably haunted by its past. On days when it rains, valet workers hand out free umbrellas meant to be taken home. Homeless communities have often (rightfully) taken advantage of this, using the umbrellas as a basic structure to protect them. The decadence of such resources is interrupted by the knowledge that money that could be used to help these communities is being used to perpetuate access to indulgent amenities. It is difficult to enjoy the design around you when you are surrounded by individuals who benefit from systemic inequity, and I would argue that, unfortunately, this dampers the experience.

Melanie: How has going to school in the Design District shaped your education? Has location provided additional opportunities you may not have otherwise

Is: As a DASH student, walking field trips around the Design District have been a key part of my education. Especially during Art Basel, trips to local art institutions are common, and serve as supplemental materials to in-classroom curriculum. In addition, DASH fashion shows and exhibitions are often housed in local spaces, and without the Design District, it would definitely be more difficult to share our work with others.

Melanie: How has the Design District shaped your work as a young artist? 

Is: As a young designer, being in the Design District has inspired my work as a visual artist, but it also serves as a constant reminder of how much work we still have to do to make the arts accessible. I plan on working for arts accessibility as I enter higher education and adulthood, and the Design District is a space that reminds me of why I am so passionate about what I want to do. Although the Design District does have spaces with free art, unspoken but undeniable standards of status and style prevent many from accessing it. As an artist, I want to make my work more accessible, and the Design District reminds me why I continue to fight.

Melanie: Do you have any favorite local spots within the Design District that others may often overlook?

Is: I’m biased, but I love the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami. My favorite thing about the ICA is that it is 100% free. There is no cost is required to enter, and you can immerse yourself in works of art absolutely free of charge. In addition, the ICA hosts several programs that are open to the public, including the Young Artists Initiative that I am a part of right now. In addition, events such as First Fridays and Family Day bring the art world to different groups of individuals, engaging attendees with activities and social gatherings. Also, it has a gorgeous garden that you’re free to spend time in, complete with its own cat!”

— Is agrees that the Design District has definitely played a role in their development as a young artist; however, the location’s blatant elitism and roots in gentrification also serve as a constant reminder for Is of why they wish to pursue a career in arts accessibility. —


List and describe the museums, monuments, and historical landmarks of the neighborhood. Select three to highlight.

Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome, 1978-2014
Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


Konstantin Grcic’s Netscape, 2010/2014
Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


Xavier Veilhan’s Le Corbusier, 2013
Photo and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


De La Cruz Collection
Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Miami
Photo by Iwan Baan (CC BY-SA 4.0)



Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

List and describe the green spaces and parks of the neighborhood


Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

Describe all modes of transportation within the neighborhood and what are the results of this.


Where are the best and authentic places to eat. Select three to highlight.

Politan Row Miami
Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


Estefan Kitchen
Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)


Night Owl Cookies
Photo courtesy of Night Owl Cookies on Instagram



Describe and list a selection of unique businesses in the neighborhood. Do not list chains. Select three to highlight.

Ahana Yoga
Photo courtesy of Ahana Yoga on Instagram


Lower East Coast
Photo courtesy of Lower East Coast on Yelp


nini & loli
Photo courtesy of nini & loli on Instagram



Photos and edit by Melanie Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

Assess the neighborhood. What works? What doesn’t?



Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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