Sunshine in SoBe
If you think the women floating around the Gansevoort South Hotel and Residences look like they’ve starred on America’s Next Top Model, you may be right: The South Beach hotel houses the Wilhelmina modelling agency, ensuring the property is perpetually touristed by ludicrously leggy models squiring their portfolios in one manicured hand and a Maltese poodle in the other. (Sharing an elevator with one of the aforementioned creatures after arriving from Toronto, I felt both painfully short and wan, like a sort of anemic amputee.) Fittingly, the 110-foot rooftop pool — the longest rooftop pool in America — looks more like a runway made of molten turquoise than an actual swimming pool. Indeed, it seems more popular to strike a pose near it than to actually get into it. (Should you care to break into a front crawl, you should check out the Gansevoort’s ocean-side Bisazza glass-trimmed infinity pool.) Set on an expansive ocean-greeting Brazilian Ipe deck, the rooftop pool is adorned with palm trees and tawny mojito-sipping sunbathers who look like they’ve just sauntered off the set of a Shakira video. (Everybody here sports a perfect honey tan; evidently, the only things Miamians like white are their beaches and their teeth.) This whole spread morphs into nightclub Plunge come dusk when loungers trade their Havaianas for heels, cabanas get adorned with candlelight and music lurches to the hips-don’t-lie variety.
In South Beach’s survival-of-the-hippest hotel culture, the GS’s rooftop pool is not only a head turner, but also the hotel chain’s trademark. This year-old SoBe hostelry is the tropical sister to the original Gansevoort Hotel, which opened in 2004 (complete with rooftop pool) in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. That inaugural Gansevoort swiftly became the premiere hotel for the urbane and libidinous. (The place has a spa called G-Spa and rooms come with “Mile High Kits” complete with feather ticklers. Enough said.) But, unlike its northern sister, Gansevoort South claims large guestrooms (at about 600 square feet, they’re among the largest in Miami), as well as 259 residences. The condos (starting at US$675,000) feature floor-to-ceiling glass doors welcoming you to sea-greeting terraces, marble floors and only the most stylish (remember: this is Miami) appliances from Wolf and SubZero in the kitchen. Should you prefer not to put the appliances to work, you can pop downstairs and dine at GS’s two restaurants, both New York City emigres: STK, which serves up the eponymous carne, and Philippe, serving gastro god Philippe Chow’s haute-Chinese.
Perhaps in an attempt to out-hot its nearby competitors (a brand-new W just opened next door), the GS offers an entire world unto itself: You can start your day at Café Bustelo, a retro Cuban coffee shop which slings an outstanding cafe con leche, smooth and potent enough to have you swear off Starbucks forever, and then have your humidity-addled coif tamed at the property’s swanky Cutler hair salon. The fashionable fiterati can OD on endorphins at the enormous 42,000-sq.-ft.- DavidBartonGym, a rock-the-Kasbah sprawl of ellipticals, moody how-you-doin’ lighting and Moroccan lanterns that make the place look more like a giant hookah bar than a fitness centre. About his gym’s souk-like aesthetic, David Barton explains: “David Barton Gym at Gansevoort South features a Moroccan-esque design, tropical, sultry, sexy and physical like Miami. It’s an alternative to the chain movement, the big box ‘McGym.’ And it’s a huge departure from the minimalist design seen everywhere else.”
South Beach, where subtlety is about as foreign as a snowflake, has long favoured a minimalist white-on-white design aesthetic that became so exaggerated as to create a sort of maximalist minimalism. In Miami, even minimalism is over the top. Bucking this now-stereotypic look, the hotel’s design team, couple Stephen B. Jacobs and Andi Pepper (also behind the New York’s inaugural Gansevoort and, its sequel, Gansevoort Park, slated to open next spring) wanted to fashion a colourful glamour ground. “When Philippe Starck designed the Delano Hotel in 1995, everything became white, and everyone copied his overly stylized look. We thought, let’s bring some colour into this. We wanted a little something-something,” says Mr. Jacobs. The something-something: The lobby boasts an anti-Starck palette of hot pink, burnt sienna, chocolate and turquoise; chaises are upholstered in race-cut hot-pink-and-orange striped velvet; and instead of a mural, there’s a 50-foot shark tank populated with Pacific blacktips. “We got the inspiration for the shark tank on our honeymoon,” says Ms. Pepper. “In the Grenadines we walked across a shark pond. It was a bit threatening but beautiful and intriguing.” Much like how I felt beholding the Wilhelmina models upstairs.