Walter Chatham renovates Dacra's Miami Beach headquarters to accommodate owner Craig Robins' art collection.
Linas Alsenas -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
"Once you mix up everything enough, everything belongs." Such was Walter Chatham's design approach for the new Miami Beach offices of Dacra, the real estate development company best known for its role in the renaissance of the Art Deco District and the creation of the Miami Design District. "If there was a green chair on one side of a table, I would put a yellow one on the other side," he explains. This peculiar strategy not only satisfied Chatham's abhorrence of the "stultifying monotony of coordinated furniture," but it also provided flexibility for the project's secondary role: an exhibition space for Dacra owner Craig Robins' significant art collection.
When the company's growth necessitated a move to larger quarters on Lincoln Road, Robins enlisted Chatham to convert the 15,000-sq.-ft. second-floor space into new headquarters for Dacra and Bridge House, a graphic design firm also owned by Robins. The "Moorish fantasy" building had been built in two phases in the 1930s. One side of the building was constructed from timber, which in south Florida inevitably means termites. When renovation began, Chatham realized that the wooden stud walls were "essentially being held together by termite saliva." Because these were bearing walls, it was impossible to open up the space as much as initially desired. Consequently, the walls jut out from the offices, serendipitously breaking up the hallway into a series of ideal gallery spaces. The other side of the building, thankfully constructed in steel, was 2 1/2 ft. lower. In this area, higher ceilings and columnar support allowed for a more open space well-suited to Bridge House's collaborative activities. Dacra and Bridge House are separated by an oval reception area, where a ramp takes visitors up to Dacra's offices.
Chatham faced the challenge of creating an "office that is neutral enough so that it would show off the art, but not so neutral that it would be bland." The walls were painted plain white, punctuated with colorful doors representing Dacra's property holdings; the lively palette was developed from signature Dacra projects.
"The purpose of the art is multivalent," explains Chatham, citing its ability to impress clients and create a stimulating, dynamic work environment. The exhibit changes periodically as Rob ins' collection rotates among the Dacra/Bridge House offices, Robins' home, and another office in the Miami Design District.
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