A legend reinvents itself

Against the backdrop of Miami Beach, architect Richard Meier and interior designer Joseph Dirand have brought the legendary Surf Club from the 1930s into a new era.

The Four Seasons Miami Beach at The Surf Club has not only revived old times – the hotel also offers a relaxed alternative to the fancy luxury homes on the beach in Florida’s cosmopolitan metropolis. At the same time, the place itself has lost nothing of the glitz and glamor of days gone by.

The club opened its doors in a grand celebration on New Year’s Eve 1930, not long after tire magnate Harvey Firestone had cruised past the aforementioned spot on the beach one winter’s afternoon while aboard his yacht Marybelle with friends. It would form the perfect backdrop for their club, he and his friends agreed – a private place, which they could frequent in spite of the alcohol ban imposed by the American prohibition law. The architect Russell T. Pancoast built The Surf Club on the more than 36,000-square-meter plot by the Atlantic. Its guests over the following years included Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill, as people flocked here to celebrate not only the sun and the beach, but also events like debutant balls, fashion shows and black-tie boxing dinners. Now the next chapter in the club’s history is being written by the Four Seasons hotel chain.

Historical aerial view

The Surf Club currently comprises a total of 77 cabana-studios in the historical section, as well as guest rooms in a new building overlooking them, which was designed by Richard Meier. There are also 30 exclusive residential suites. Amid the pools and palms in the garden, a magnificent view of the sea opens up, and the overall class of this scenario is reflected in the choice of garden furniture. Here, guests can relax on bespoke loungers by Belgian outdoor furniture manufacturer Tribù. “We have selected the best of what everyone can do and we have pushed them to give us their best,” explains Nadim Ashi, founder of Fort Partners, which now owns The Surf Club. “We haven’t let go of anything less than excellence. We believe that if you create something unique it will last.”

For the redesign of the public areas and the hotel rooms, Parisian interior designer Joseph Dirand was brought on board. He turned to Tribù for the furniture around the three pools, the beach, and the terrace of the Le Sirenuse restaurant, which is located in the restored dance hall and the loggia of the clubhouse. “We have not created the Surf Club, but we have a commitment to ensure that what we are doing has integrity, culture and quality at its heart. It needs to be alive and loved,” says Nadim Ashi. The club is adjoined directly on both sides by a larger residential complex, which was likewise designed by New York architecture firm Richard Meier & Partners. Two twelve-story buildings, each with differing cubic content yet with the same characteristic transparent façade, surround the hotel and offer unique views of the Atlantic Ocean and Downtown Miami. Richard Meier arranged parts of the interior and various finishes personally.

By the pool, guests can relax on bespoke loungers by Belgian outdoor furniture manufacturer Tribù.

“The Marybelle” penthouse in the Four Seasons Hotel, meanwhile, was finished according to plans by Joseph Dirand, while the terrace was furnished with tables and armchairs from Tribù’s “Illum” collection by Merckx & Maes and the “Mirthe” sofa series from the drawing board of Studio Segers. In design terms, Dirand sticks to minimalism. Most striking are the extra-deep cushions of the “Mirthe” sofas, encased in a body of varnished aluminum. Loungers were developed alongside these in cooperation with Tribù. White surfaces and white, weather-resistant coverings in combination with wood are his tonality of choice – here, high above the sea. “In Miami, the colors I’m using are those in front of my eyes: the palm trees, the beach, the color of the water, the sky,” explains the French designer. It makes sense. After all, it was precisely this that gave this place its magical allure almost 90 years ago. (mh)

The Surf Club with new hotel building (left) and one of the two newly created residential complexes (right) by Richard Meier
"The Marybelle" penthouse
"The Marybelle" penthouse