While sailing on the turquoise waters near Miami, Florida in 1927, Harvey Firestone—founder of Firestone Tire—spotted a beachfront property that evoked a scene F. Scott Fitzgerald himself couldn’t have imagined better. A place for parties, social strata, and, when needed, repose. Inspired, Firestone opened his own prime beachfront property, the Surf Club, in 1930, situated on more than six acres in Miami’s Surfside neighbourhood. The elite venue, designed by architect Russell Pancoast, held many decadent fetes, black-tie evenings, debutante balls, and even poolside fashion shows, popularized by its dedicated members and frequented by famous guests.
At its height, the Surf Club was a recreational ground for cultural icons such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Dean Martin. Winston Churchill, too, was known to bask under one of the cabanas and pass the time capturing the tides in his watercolour paintings. Today, another celebrated name joins the list: Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Meier. With designs having already been drafted for an 80-room hotel and 157 private residences, as well as a complete restoration of the original Russell Pancoast building, Meier and his architectural team are preparing to bring the Surf Club into a whole new era, adding a massive new addition to the historic club.
“[When] designing a house on the water, the water takes priority,” Meier says. Paying homage to a body that covers over 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, the new property designs flow between open and private spaces with a subtle opacity. The residences within two 12-storey tower additions feature private gardens, pools, and interiors all designed in collaboration with interior designers Lee Mindel and Joseph Dirand. The aforementioned 80-room hotel continuum—a part of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts portfolio—will offer both guests and property owners the amenities and services available in any of their other 90 hotels around the world. As Meier notes, “having the Four Seasons as a part of the Surf Club development returns the level of service to what it was in its heyday and makes it the luxurious place that it was from the very beginning.”
With its completion slated for 2016, the Surf Club will also welcome Meier back as a resident. So he too may be found, when all is built and done, sketching and painting under the cabana.