Miami Beach, Florida – Miami Beach's Casa Casuarina has an old-world glamour. Built in 1930 by Alden Freeman, it seduced fashion design legend Gianni Versace, who bought the property in 1992 and transformed it into an eight-bedroom Mediterranean Revival style estate.
Its sultry gardens, stucco walls, arched windows and frothy fountains hark back to the maximalist architectural style of the Italian and Spanish Renaissance and so, after Versace's death, restaurateur Barton G. Weiss resurrected the residence a third time: he turned it into a luxury hotel with a restaurant named, appropriately enough, Gianni’s.
To Gianni's, Weiss wanted to add year-round, Hollywood-chic, al fresco dining, which required the addition of outdoor seating. But he faced some serious code restrictions.
The building is historical, demanding the preservation and protection of the property's architecture, art and artisanry, including a mosaic of the iconic Versace Medusa logo that is the focal point of the poolside garden.
So Weiss turned to Italian brand KE Outdoor Design to create the new dining terrace. KE installed four Gennius Isola 2 pergolas, taking advantage of their modern design and functionality, and creating 100 additional seats beneath the 20-foot high, stand-alone steel structure that they form side-by-side.
The design team also integrated a perimeter of dimmable LED lighting into the edges of the structure, imbuing the terrace with a luxurious sense of intimacy.
But the pergola's crisp minimalism is perhaps the Gennius Isola 2's greatest virtue because it gives it extreme versatility. Elsewhere, the Isola 2 has been used as a shading solution in places where it respects, and integrates easily into, a minimal architectural context. At Casa Casuarina, however, the sotto voce contrast of the pergola's white minimalism with its opulent surroundings makes it a perfect frame for the mansion's Old World ornament.
Today, by retracting the roofs, guests can follow the perambulations of stars in the night sky. Closing the roofs instead allows guests to take shelter from Miami’s tropical monsoon climate while still feeling its moody atmosphere from the comfort of their tables. And from there they can still watch the stars reflected in the pool at their feet.