PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT HANS FONK

A typical Art Deco building with a 40-storey transparent glass apartment block behind; this is the Setai Hotel complex in Miami Beach – a Zen oasis bathed in Asian luxury. It is a remarkable project initiated by the equally remarkable hotelier Adrian Zecha, the man behind the Aman resorts and GHM hotels. The rock star-designer Lenny Kravtiz has added to the excitement by building a complete recording studio in his penthouse here.

Collins Avenue, the thoroughfare running through Miami Beach parallel with the ocean, is at the centre of the current building onslaught. A few blocks further along is the exuberant Delano Hotel designed by Philippe Starck: a source of inspiration for hordes of interior designers that, in a relatively short time, has become one of the hotel world’s ‘standards’.

Art Deco is the magic formula in Miami Beach; a classic style combined here with South American temperament resulting in a blend of bossa nova, salsa and R&B. It now has an Oriental counterpart in the understated Asian chic of the Setai Hotel and concomitant oceanfront apartment complex, as well as hotel rooms, which are part of the programme. Here, no white curtains draped from the ceilings and cheerfully wafting in the breeze, but sleekly styled spaces in an Asian-inspired Zen ambience with which Adrian Zecha, co-initiator of Aman resorts and the affiliated GHM hotel group, causes a stir.

Zecha was also the man behind the Setai project. With architectural and decorative back up from Jean-Michel Gathy, of Denniston International of Kuala Lumpur, and Jaya Pratomo Ibrahim, of Jaya & Associates of Jakarta. For this project they worked together with New York-based Alayo Consulting Architects and Shapiro & Associates of Miami. The Setai group is the project developer – a New-York based group specialising in deluxe residential projects and five-star boutique hotels. The group was founded by Jonathan J. Breere and John P. Conroy Jr, both of whom were actively engaged in realising the Miami-Setai project.

The hub of the hotel is formed by the Dempsy-Vanderbilt building erected in the nineteen-thirties. It was designed in Art Deco style and has been thoroughly restored for the project on hand. Today that part contains the reception area, bars and restaurants, plus 75 suites. The lobby, designed in collaboration with Spin Studio from Japan, is a fusion of Miami and Shanghai Art Deco, and decorated with pebbles, mother-of-pearl topped tables, elegant floral bouquets, bronze ornaments, leather and teak from that Chinese waterside city. The ambience is serene: Asian chic offsetting the hectic life of South Beach.

The immense reflecting pool forms an integral part of the complex and serves to connect up the old part with the new, which contains the Setai Spa, three parallel swimming pools, imposing bar with outdoor restaurant and direct access to the ocean-side private beach. This is also the location of the 40-storey apartment building with private condominiums as well as the 50 suites and the penthouse belonging to the hotel. The glass tower is one of the tallest at South Beach. From the studios and the penthouse there is a unique view over the beach to Biscayne Bay on the other side.