Just what Americans need, another holiday. As if Earth Day, Secretary's Day, and Grandparents' Day weren't enough. Add to the list Design and Architecture Day, coming at us Friday, October 1. This one is different, though. You won't have to send flowers, buy candy, spring for lunch, or plant a tree. You'll just have to look and listen, be acutely aware of your surroundings, and take special note of the many ways design of all kinds affects our world.
Long celebrated internationally (the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and England mark the occasion in particularly noteworthy ways), the event is being held in the United States for the first time this year, under the auspices of the Arango Design Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the significance of design to the public. But don't expect to observe the holiday in any town other than Miami. As a pilot project, which organizers hope will spread throughout the nation, it's only being commemorated here -- for now. According to Maricarmen Martínez, architect and partner in Upstairs Studio and chairperson of the affair, our fair city is the ideal locale to host the inaugural happening: "Miami is now being looked at for its design merit. There is so much happening here that it's the perfect platform for the event to take place."
The day's main objective, says Martínez, is to inform people about design and architecture. "It's about the public, not professionals, understanding the environment around them," she notes. "If you educate the public about the importance of the buildings and civic structures, you empower them to make decisions about the way their cities are shaped. They learn about zoning issues, about massing and proportion, and they become informed voters and consumers."
Citizens can certainly count on information overflow. One year in the planning, the festivities will encompass more than just 24 hours. A flurry of events (lectures, exhibitions, open houses, tours on land and sea) will take place all over town throughout the following week. A variety of disciplines will be highlighted, including art, graphic and industrial design, and residential and commercial architecture.
Graphic design gets a nod on Monday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m., when the comical 1995 film Ben Day, a fictional account of a lowly designer who climbs the ladder to become what folks in the profession like to call "an award-winning creative," screens at the Absinthe House Cinematheque in Coral Gables. Also in the Gables, through Friday, October 8, Meza Fine Art gallerycafé presents the exhibition "Redesigning Miami: A Barry Goode Show," featuring the work of local (and often unsung) graphic artists.
Among the events looking at industrial and building design: In honor of its 40th anniversary, the Arango store in Dadeland Mall holds a show that looks back at furniture and products from the Fifties and Sixties and compares them with contemporary works. The mall itself will host an exhibition of miniature cities composed of models created by architectural students from local universities. At the Wolfsonian-FIU on Friday, October 1, Mark Robbins, architect, critic, and design director for the National Endowment for the Arts delivers a talk titled "Working in the Present: The Relevance of Modernist Ideals Today." The same evening architect Mark Hampton, the man responsible for transforming the former utilitarian Washington Storage Company into what is now the stunning Wolfsonian-FIU (a task that took roughly ten years) will be honored for his work.
"By the time this event is over, we want a lot of our residents to know their city's structures on a first-name basis. We want the residents brought closer to the architecture around them," Martínez says. Mark Hampton concurs: "To get the public in tune and interested is part of the whole movement of architecture. It's a very important part of our world. It's what we live in."