Design Miami/ Cofounder Craig Robins Shares His Creative Inspirations
The Miami developer puts culture at the forefront of his real estate projects—and in his personal life as well
As a major force behind Miami’s renaissance, Craig Robins has ensured art, design, and architecture are at the forefront of that change, including helping to bring Art Basel to Miami and cofounding buzzworthy Design Miami/, of which he serves as chairman. Robins also puts these personal passions at the heart of the real estate projects he realizes with his company, Dacra, which led the charge in establishing the Miami Design District, revitalizing South Beach, and developing the residential community Aqua. Here, he gives an up-close look at some of his favorite things.
The interaction between art and design is very powerful. Having great art and boring furniture isn’t as exciting. You can see it in my office, where there’s one of three desks Prouvé designed displayed with works by Marlene Dumas, Barkley L. Hendricks, and ’60s Richard Tuttle.
In my own home, there’s a mix of historical designers, such as Gio Ponti, Maria Pergay, and Prouvé, with new things. In our dining room, we have the Aqua table that Zaha Hadid created with Established & Sons. She also was incredibly generous and designed the bathroom in our house.
I’m constantly collecting young artists and watching to see how they evolve. Right now, I’m really excited about Jana Euler, who is based in Germany. There’s also Sasha Gordon, whom I have one work by and I’m enthusiastic to get another one. I just bought a second work by Chase Hall from David Kordansky Gallery, where he recently had an amazing show. Lauren Halsey is on my radar. She is an important contributor to the dialogue that’s happening now.
Many collectors have a hard time answering the question, Who’s your favorite artist? But I have no problem saying Goya. When I was in college, I spent a year studying in Madrid and didn’t really know much about art. I stumbled upon the Prado Museum and ended up going back every day for a week to see paintings mainly by Goya. He was the first artist that got me very excited about art.
Work takes me to Paris, Milan, London, and Basel. Paris has a lot of great hotels, but the Cheval Blanc is this incredible next stage of service. In Zurich, what Norman Foster did with The Dolder Grand is really extraordinary.
For personal travel, I prefer camping in the wilderness. That’s my idea of luxury. The great thing about kayaking is every morning you wake up in a different location and then get back on the river and find another place to set up camp.
I read constantly, generally nonfiction from history to physics to biology, economics, sociology. I’m currently rereading Wanting by Luke Burgis, a fantastic book that explains why we want what we want. I’m also reading a neuroscience book called Incognito by David Eagleman about how the brain functions.
The Miami Design District is really a cultural neighborhood, not just a place to shop. It’s an amazing platform for public art, architecture, and design. Samuel Ross recently installed benches, which are a testament of his visionary prowess. As the first Designer of the Year for Design Miami/, Zaha Hadid inserted Elastika in a building there. The second year was Marc Newson, and he conceived a beautiful fence in front of DASH. John Baldessari even concepted a whole building for us. For the 2023 commission, the exceptional talent Lara Bohinc created Utopia, a mesmerizing, four-piece installation.
I’m a casual dresser. I wear a lot of T-shirts by Urs Fischer from the pop-up store he collaborated on last year with Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch and ones by Josué Thomas from Gallery Dept.
When I first met Christian Louboutin, about 15 years ago, he told me that my glasses weren’t cool. He sent me to Maison Bonnet in Paris, where he gets his. Every pair is made to order and custom fitted.
When it comes to Miami restaurants, the best steak house is this Korean barbecue Cote. For healthy, I love Le Jardinier. There’s also a Design District food hall named Mia Market with—I’m not exaggerating—the number one Japanese spot in Miami, Sushi Yasu Tanaka. But everybody calls me to help them get reservations for Mandolin Aegean Bistro, which is such a cool, casual, fun place.
“The interaction between art and design is very powerful”Craig Robins
Miami is not only an urban destination; it’s a tropical paradise. There’s a beautiful park at the end of Key Biscayne where you walk through mangrove trees along the beach. We’ve also got great opportunities to see art. Some of my favorites are the de la Cruz Collection, the ICA, PAMM, and The Bass. And there’s always Calle Ocho, which is an incredible Latin experience with live entertainment.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Winter Issue under the headline “Work-Life Balance.” Subscribe to the magazine.