Miami-based designers and creative studios never quite managed to land on—or advance past—the shortlist during the first seven iterations of the annual Miami Design District Neighborhood Commission, a site-specific public design program launched in 2015 to bring crowd-drawing installations to the gallery- and boutique-packed neighborhood during its busy winter season. This year, however, curators Anava Projects, a creative agency led by Anna Carnick and Wava Carpenter, have broken that streak with the selection of architect and educator Germane Barnes for the coveted commission. Although originally from Chicago, Barnes has established his eponymous research and design practice in the Magic City and is assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture, where he also serves as director of The Community Housing & Identity Lab (CHIL).
Barnes’s proposal, a multifaceted and multi-scale installation entitled Rock | Roll, was designed in response to this year’s curatorial brief, Something To Talk About, and selected via a competitive, invitation-only process led by Anava Projects. Rock | Roll, as the eighth annual Miami Design District Neighborhood Commission, will be installed across multiple high-traffic sites within the Design District next month, just ahead of Miami Art Week. The installation will remain on view into the new year.
“One of the things we admire most about Germane and his practice—and there are many—is his community-engaged approach, which exemplifies the most exciting directions in the field at this moment,” noted Carnick and Carpenter. “His work is at once accessible and poetic, critical and uplifting. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with him.”
Barnes was a finalist in the 2020 cycle of the Miami Design District Neighborhood Commission, also curated by Anava Projects, for his Water Park | Water Mark.
As detailed in a press release announcing Barnes’s win, Rock | Roll is a joyous fête-as-installation, a rollicking, radiant work that pays homage to Miami Carnival, a long-running celebration of the city’s vibrant African-Caribbean communities that encompasses four key events: the Junior Carnival, Panorama, J’ouvert, and the flagship costumed parade and concert. Along the Design District’s main pedestrian corridors, Rock | Roll envisions a series of oversized, flamboyantly hued “seating capsules” that sway back and forth when activated by users. Otherworldly in appearance and and ovoid in shape, the texture and colors of Rock | Roll’s fluffy street furnishings are inspired by the feathered costumes of Carnival. Meanwhile, dangling above sidewalks and public spaces throughout the Design District will be hundreds of prismatic wind chimes—“hung like melody-making ornaments in the lush native trees and palms,” per the announcement—in a nod to steel drums and Soca music.
The centerpiece of Rock | Roll will be an architectural-scale dome structure fabricated by ALT BLD that keeps the festive vibes going with its semblance to a colossal disco ball. Brought to life by music and lights, the shiny structure will demarcate a dedicated programming area set to host sporadic dance parties (fueled by a Carnival-inspired playlist), impromptu community gatherings, storytelling sessions, and a series of talks developed in collaboration with the University of Miami’s Center for Global Black Studies and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. A full programing schedule at the space is forthcoming.
“I saw this project as an opportunity to celebrate the unique character of the city that has become my adopted home and the subject of much of my most prominent research, said Barnes in a statement. “Rock | Roll is an ode to the joyful spirit that persists in Miami’s Black communities—a spirit of self-care that is so perfectly embodied in Miami Carnival culture. This city would not be what it is today without significant contributions from people who, on the one hand, look like me, and on the other reflect deep ties to places beyond Miami, especially the Caribbean and Latin America. The moral to the story is that there is space for everyone here.”
As the first Miami-based designer to score the Miami Design District Neighborhood Commission, Barnes joins a globes-spanning list of previous winners including Studio Proba and Enjoy the Weather’s Tomorrow Land (Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon; 2021); gt2P’s Conscious Actions (Santiago, Chile, 2020); Fernando Laposse’s Pink Beasts (London, 2019); Dozie Kanu’s Support System (Portugal, 2018); Charlap Hyman & Herrero’s White Rain (Los Angeles and New York City, 2017); Philippe Malouin’s The Speed of Light (London, 2016); and Snarkitecture’s Holiday (Brooklyn, 2015).
Rock | Roll follows a series of recent high-profile commissions and awards for Barnes including the 2021 Rome Prize in Architecture, the 2021 Harvard Wheelwright Prize, and the 2021 Architectural League Prize. Barnes was also one of 11 featured participants in last year’s Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at the Museum of Modern Art. More recently, Barnes unveiled Intersect, an ephemeral play pavilion commissioned for the Concéntrico Festival in Logroño, Spain.