From Milan to Miami: a 1950s Motel Gets Reimagined as a Global Design Gallery

Away from the luxury of Miami Art Week, Alcova finds an American home.

alcova miami at the gold dust motel

Selina Gold Dust Motel. Photo by Lorenzo Capelli, DSL Studio

By and

December 8, 2023

In the height of the great-American-road-trip era, Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard became the epicenter of motor courts and motels. One of those was the Gold Dust Motel, designed by Maurice S. Weintraub and described as “an interpretation of Subtropical Modernism” by the Miami Herald when it opened in 1957.

The boulevard is now packed with operators aiming to leverage America’s neon-clad, pink Cadillac history into modern-day customers looking for an alternative to the glossy globalization of South Beach.  Surprisingly, one of those operators now includes two Italian design curators, Valentina Ciuffi (Studio Vedèt) and Joseph Grima (Space Caviar) who for the first time have brought their wildly popular Alcova exhibition from Milan to Miami.

“Our core mission remains unchanged: to transform unique spaces into immersive platforms for groundbreaking design,” the founders said in a release. Alcova Miami 2023’s lineup includes design institutions, established brands, and emerging studios each contributing to the ever-expanding language of contemporary design.

The first international edition of Alcova presents over 300 participants from six continents. Here are a few of the displays not to be missed.

decades (in space)

Arts Technologist & MIT Spatial Sound Lab Researcher KamranV and Experience Designer Daniel Perlin. Photo by Chris Force

One of the more wild projects at Alcova Miami is actually a benefit project for the non-profit experimental internet radio station dublab. decades (in space) is a collaborative album featuring 10 songs from members of Warpaint, The Postal Service, Tortoise, No Age, The Sea and Cake and others. The album, which is available to stream,  is also available as a vinyl record. Limited to 432 copies the record, with cheeky take-off inspired pricing of $987.65, comes packaged in a “make space” kit which in addition to storing the album can be assembled to form a chair designed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory UX designer Marijke Jorritsma, Daniel Perlin, John Vieweg, and KamranV who also produced the album. The project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


uncharted at alcova miami

Uncharted group exhibition at Alcova Miami includes work by by Caleb Ferris, Forma Rosa Studio, NJ Roseti, Studio Sam Klemick, Tristan Louis Marsh, Wallpaper Projects. Photo by Paul Barbera

The group exhibition Uncharted asks: what’s out there—the future, the undiscovered, the never-seen-before? Six artists from across the US come together to expand their creative boundaries in wood, ceramics, metal, and textiles and seek new discoveries in their own practices. “We’re all explorers, and the objects in this show represent the artifacts we are each bringing back after a process of discovery. It’s about inspiring a sense of wonder and curiosity, challenging viewers to think about the future, but also to take a closer look at what’s already right in front of them,” says designer Sam Klemick, whose upcycled furniture impressed us earlier this year. The resulting pieces of functional art, presented against galaxy-like drapes and shiny red plastic carpeting, exemplify curiosity, ambition, and desire for newness.

“There can be a lot of fear and hesitance when entering into realms of the unknown, but also a sense of excitement. We wanted to explore these contrasting emotions, creating a moody space that is also welcoming, a place where you can slow down and find presence,” says Maria Tesera Castillo, co-founder of Forma Rosa Studio.,,,,,

UMA: T4 by Holloway Li and Silo by Benni Allan

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this chiclet-y seat by Holloway Li for UMA, manufacturer of well-designed, lasting molded furniture. But again, the candy-colored seat catches our attention. Next to it, Benni Allan’s Silo chair reflects a similar clarity of form, with a more sculptural angle. Benni’s goal of making objects that beg interaction, blending architecture and visual arts, is embodied in the composite cylinders that form the seat. Although it looks like a sculpture with the kind of heft to let it settle in one place—perhaps under a spotlight—forever, the seat is made entirely of lightweight fiberglass with a finely textured, upcycled finish suitable for indoors and outdoors.

Trophy Room by Objects for Objects

Leonard Bessemer’s display evokes a 1970s basement trophy room: linoleum floors and thick curtains surround a shelf, table, chair, mirror, floor lamp, and two sconces designed from carrera marble and multicolored trophy stands. Leonard’s studio Objects for Objects is known for skillfully made yet lighthearted woodwork—mainly shelving. “The goal of my previous collections was to give everyday objects more meaning. Now, I am giving objects that are imbued with meaning more functionality,” Leonard says.

Before the Eclipse by Studio Jialun Xiong

Jialun Xiong joins Alcova’s interiors-focused offerings with two new light fixtures inspired by the night sky, Void Wall Sconce and Stellar Ceiling Lamps, alongside the LA designer’s other furnishings. The display is inspired by the inexplicable, vast silence of the galaxy and our perceived place among the floating stars and planets—or in this case, among black and white gradient light fixtures that seem to hover.

“When you don’t have colors or other distractions, you see everything else that goes into making a product. There’s more room for texture and material to shine … The exhibition space is also an expansion of the pieces themselves. I want people to lower their voices and be curious about what’s happening, let them question why it’s so dark,” Jialun says.

(UN)OBJECTS by Adarsh Nellore

Artist and designer Adarsh Nellore makes his beautiful art objects using advanced 3D scanning technology, generative algorithms, photogrammetry, and advanced additive manufacturing. His display at Alcova highlights pieces from previous European exhibitions as well as the new Helix collection: a set of side tables made from binder-jetted sand in collaboration with German manufacturer Sandhelden.

“In today’s world, we tend to value the data that describes a physical object more than the object itself, making the implied more important that the actual, and making objects (un)objects,” Adarsh says.

French Getaway at the Seaside Motel by Meillart & POLCHA

Meillart, a platform for exceptional furniture founded by Marie d’Hoffschmidt and Alfred de Franssu, and POLCHA studio, founded by Paris-based designers Pauline Leyravaud and Charlotte Tarbouriech presented a series of furnishings inspired by a fictional seaside motel. The designers, who have a background in set design, created a lounger with a unique mix of furniture-grade wood and handmade pool tiles.,


“Vital Friction,” made of blown glass and industrial steel off-cuts by Lisa Sacco. Photo by Chris Force

Momentum is a collection of objects presenting a dynamic approach to materiality. Designers Samuel Aguirre, Jesse Groom, Yuxuan Huang, Felicia Neuhof, and Lisa Sacco, all recent graduates of Rhode Island School of Design, push the boundaries of furniture typographies.


Palma is a creative studio founded in São Paulo, Brazil by artist Cleo Döbberthin and architect Lorenzo Lo Schiavo. Their handmade furniture uses steel, fiberglass, and decorative elements such as bronze castings from tombstones to create a unique design language.

<Tying Wishes> by WKND Lab

In Korean culture, there is a tradition of giving knots as tokens of good luck. For their Alcova Miami exhibition, Korean studio WKND Lab explores the traditional knot-tying methods—but bigger, with massive knots that can be sat upon or engaged with on a larger scale. The project, <Tying Wishes>, is part of the studio’s Maedeup series of multifunctional furniture, decorative items, and lighting that interprets Korean knot-making through a contemporary lens.

The giant knots are expertly crafted with the help of an experienced seamstress to be perfectly symmetrical. A heightened attention to detail allows the knots to become versatile, functional decorations.

MSHWY04 by JOV & Mary Lenox

Gilles Vandenbussche of JOV Rugs. Photo by Chris Force

JOV, a Belgian rug company, showed MSHWY04, their latest creation in the M-SHWY collection. Designed by Berlin-based Studio Mary Lennox, the collection draws its name and inspiration from mushrooms’ interconnected network. The exhibit shows the finished rugs alongside different mushroom sources for inspiration—all complete in a Dexter-like clean room.  The rugs are handcrafted from New Zealand wool and Tencel Lyocell.

Senseables by crafting plastics! studio

Vlasta Kubušová and Miroslav Král founded crafting plastics! in Bratislava in 2016 with the intention to integrate new and better ecological biocomposites into stimulating designs and objects. At Alcova Miami the studio presents Senseables, a furniture collection made with Dumolab Research and engineered to visualize UV radiation; Collection 13, a series of 3D-printed stools made of the studio’s signature, 100% biobased NUATAN® material; Collection 12, a series of sculptural vases, also 3D-printed from NUATAN; and the experimental interior divider Sensbiom 2.1, composed of a latticed curtain of NUATAN, designed to passively detect and respond to UVR radiation.

Out of Line by Bieke Casteleyn

alcova miami 2023

Bieke Casteleyn with her Out of Line Collection. Photo by Chris Force

Belgian designer Bieke Casteleyn’s Out of Line collection of furniture features organically shaped, handcrafted, tables, benches, that offer a fluid and soft aesthetic. The items are made from a unique mix of Afrormosia wood and plaster.

The New MAXXI Design Collection

MAXXI, Italy’s museum of contemporary arts, unveiled newly acquired works in its Design Collection. This collection reflects MAXXI’s commitment to both historical and contemporary design, focusing on diverse disciplines from industrial to experimental design.

Dry Garden by Objects of Common Interest

Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis of Objects of Common Interest created Dry Garden to capture Miami’s twilight ambiance, using a blue-purple palette to mirror the city’s lively moments. Incorporating rock-like seats and light panels, the space glows, reflecting Miami’s urban charm and the sun’s influence. This work, part of their resin craftsmanship exploration in Athens, merges design and traditional artistry, showcasing their interdisciplinary approach in art, design, and architecture.

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