Miami Nice

by ANNIE GOTTERSON on Oct 4, 2010 in Architecture , Interiors , Lifestyle
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Paris-born, New York-based architect and designer Charlotte Macaux Perelman brings a touch of Cuba to landmark Florida hotel The Raleigh.

In 1940, when the Shore Corp put up US$250,000 to build The Raleigh hotel, Frank Delano Roosevelt was fireside chatting, Winston Churchill was delivering some of modern history’s best speeches and John Lennon was born. It was a pre-war boom time in Miami Beach, a period in which nearly 3,000 hotel rooms were built in two years in a total of 41 hotels.

When architect L Murray Dixon, creator of many of Miami’s trophy buildings such as The Grossinger (The Ritz Plaza), The Atlantis, The Tides and The Victor, set forth to design this hotel, he most likely didn’t realise that his imprint on the Miami Beach landscape would be deeper felt by this project than any of his others. After construction, the war administration took over and housed troops at The Raleigh – in fact, it was a kosher hotel and the ballroom was used as a synagogue after the war.

Over the decades, trends have ebbed and flowed, and The Raleigh has seen a few facelifts, the most recent among which was undertaken by architect and designer Charlotte Macaux Perelman. ‘I was hired by André Balazs as director of the design of his company and pretty quickly he asked me to be in charge of the Raleigh renovation,’ she says.

Having worked with the likes of design star Philippe Starck and architect David Rockwell – with whom she worked as designer and project manager for marquee projects including the Cirque du Soleil site in Hong Kong – Perelman established her own company, Studio CMP, five years ago. Of The Raleigh, she points to the importance of the history not just of the hotel itself, but its design heritage and influences. ‘It was André’s wish to recreate the soul of an old fashioned hotel in Cuba somewhere in the 1940s. It was clear that I had to keep a lot of the historical details; we did long historic research before renovations began,’ she says.

Perelman worked on the history of The Raleigh by decade, got intimate with the space and tried to preserve its spirit. One of the most popular feature elements is The Raleigh’s Art Deco-inspired swimming pool. ‘It is mentioned as one of the most beautiful pools in the US and we were successful with recreating its old glamour by highlighting its shape and spirit,’ she says.

Miami’s verdant greenery also inspired the designer to create a tropical garden in the grounds. ‘When the property was bought there were no trees anymore,’ she says. ‘We also recreated a private beach and planted hundreds of trees all around our beach and pool. The property is ‘framed’ by green.’