Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Each winter, the Miami Design District Annual Neighborhood Commission, curated in collaboration with Anava Projects, accepts proposals to reimagine its public installations. This season’s awardee is the architect, designer, and professor Germane Barnes, for his concept “Rock | Roll.” In creating his vibrant, multifaceted installation, Barnes drew on the visual language of Miami Carnival to honor BIPOC communities with large-scale kinetic seating sculptures in colorful, shaggy surfaces; bright wind chimes as a nod to Soca music; and a free-floating suspended dome that recalls a disco ball, animated by light and sound, and serves as an outdoor gathering space.
Barnes shared with Whitewaller how he approaches architecture in the neighborhood and in the classroom.
WHITEWALLER: What was your starting point for “Rock | Roll”?
GERMANE BARNES: I received the invitation to participate while I was living in Italy, during my residency at the American Academy in Rome. One of the demands of the curatorial team was “a neighborhood-wide installation that is both visually exciting and narratively rich.” I was feeling slightly homesick. The food, the music, the fun, and vibrancy of Miami was something I wanted to capture in built form. One of the defining characteristics of Miami is its Caribbean community and Carnival is the flagship event of the year. The genesis of “Rock | Roll” is the incredible spectacle that is Carnival.
Miami is a city that only exists because Black men were temporarily given the power to vote, confirming the incorporation of Miami as a city. Those same men were given racial identification cards as their only access to Miami Beach. Those same families were forced to live in areas detached from water, a space most have a deep attachment to from their respective ancestral islands. This project is an acknowledgment and appreciation of those communities.
WW: What kind of engagement did you want to create for the neighborhood’s pedestrian corridors?
GB: Design can often feel inaccessible and delicate. I believe in playscapes that invite users of all ages to interrogate and experience. The Rockers are large, bold. and interactive so that all visitors can use the seating differently. I design with my inner child in mind, so much of the importance is based on the question “Would adolescent Germane enjoy using this?”
WW: You’ve designed hundreds of wind chimes—a nod to steel drums of Soca music. Why did you want an audible component to the project?
GB: Carnival is bombastic, funky, and immersive. As the first Miami designer to be selected, I wanted something that is not only visually striking but is sonically present. Everywhere you walk within the Design District should reverberate.
WW: As a professor of architecture at the University of Miami, what are you discussing today in the classroom?
GB: At the University of Miami, I coordinate our second-year core studio, Architecture and the Environment. It is within this course that students are exposed to ecological, social, and political issues within the design. The aim is to introduce students to changing climates, vulnerable landscapes, marginalized communities, and outside social factors that positively and negatively contribute to design. In essence, I teach design activism.