When Art Basel begins, a 30-foot-long, 15-foot-high, 15-foot-wide “Paper Boat” will be floating on Biscayne Bay. Made of bamboo poles, wires, and sails, the Paper Boat has at its core a hammam — fashioned of wood and Lucite — that’s illuminated, beacon-like, at night. Designer Luis Pons, influenced by the paper boats children make, equates his interpretation of one to a glowing offering to the universe, in which we deposit our deepest, purest wishes, so that they float in our imaginary “water world.” And it’ll all be happening alongside the architecturally inspired backdrop of Miami’s Standard Hotel.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the magical world of the child imagination,” says Pons, “right before reason takes over and consumerism takes hold.” To that end, the paper boat is a pure, child-like gesture that reflects children’s untouched, purely expressed way of relating to their dreams.
Pons believes the simplicity of this gesture is something we all can relate to. “We’ve all made a modest, simple paper boat,” says Pons, “and we’ve all placed it in the water and watched it moving away, as it carries our wishes in a simple gesture of playfulness and curiosity.”
Beyond the psychological meaning, there’s a more literal one. Pons’ boat celebrates Miami’s biggest asset, water — the natural element that connects each individual in the city and defines its identity. To that end, it encourages a dialogue about the Miami waterfront space, spurring us — not just in Miami, but nationally and globally — to make proper use of our resources and maintain their integrity, doing our best to ensure a seamless connection between the natural and artificial worlds.
“The Miami waterfront has rarely been taken into consideration as an urban pedestrian space,” says Pons. “There have only been a few urban park developments that respond to their environment, and provide people with an urban space along the waterfront, giving pedestrians the opportunity to relate, and connect, to the water.”
One of the rare projects in the area that successfully makes this connection, notes Pons, is the Standard Hotel, which his paper boat relates to — quite literally. “The hotel is a true lesson of architecture and design in harmony with its context,” he says. “Its gentleness and softness embrace each person who walks into this tropical oasis. Its serenity goes far beyond its services as a hotel and spa.”
The positive design impact starts as you pass the main building and encounter a series of portals that create an immediate feeling of relaxation. The first building is a gate to paradise. As you walk out of it towards the bay, you find yourself in the heart of the property, a lush tropical garden confined by two modest buildings that protect and embrace it. These two buildings guide you through the garden until you reach the splendid swimming pool that mirrors the bay.
Here is where the Standard’s main asset is clear: It is cohesive within its context. It embraces the bay, opening up toward it. Here, bordering the water, is where the hotel’s main activities take place: bars, restaurants, spa amenities, water sports and recreational areas.
The hotel’s interior is just as artful, with lines that are strong and modern yet fluid and organic, subtly recalling nature. And the property’s spa includes a hammam, of which Pons’ paper boat is meant to be a visual extension. It’s a subtle tribute to the Standard’s smart, sensitive architecture, as well as the water — and all the dreams it so gracefully contains.