Vito Acconci speaking at a Design Pioneer Talk at Design Miami, where he was named designer of the year.
Vito Acconci speaking at a Design Pioneer Talk at Design Miami, where he was named designer of the year.

Miami’s Design District is a community in flux.

This year's Art Basel super-fair is the first since the area, long home to popular furniture showrooms, came under the sway of global luxury megalith LVMH. The company became the largest landlord in the neighborhood earlier this year after it acquired several adjacent blocks in the neighborhood; the change of ownership is already palpable on the streets of the District, where a series of high-fashion pop-up shops (Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Celine, among others) have sprung up in just the last couple months. Their appearance heralds still greater changes to come, with existing buildings slated to be revamped in the near future to accommodate still more vendors of pricey apparel.

Into this shifting landscape has come a special project by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based designer and avant-garde staple Vito Acconci, honored as this year's Designer of the Year by Art Basel sister-show Design Miami. Acconci's piece—titled "Here/There, Now/Later"—is a typically elliptical sound installation located in two rooms of the Buena Vista building, each kitted out with a series of amplifiers suspended from the ceiling through which the designer’s voice speaks to visitors in an echoing cacophony. The exact content of his speech is almost impossible to discern, but again and again words like "landscape" and "façade" seemed to emerge from the aural muddle.

Since the Buena Vista building itself is set to be radically remodeled as part of the District’s new identity, "Here/There" might be an exploration on the indeterminacy of space through time, the screen "walls" in one half of the exhibition vanishing in the other, leaving their traces in lines of tape on the floor. But that isn't quite Acconci’s game. Zacharia Vincent, who has worked on this and previous installations for the designer, describes the project as "one part of something bigger," a verbal reflection on recent work from Acconci Studio that includes speculative plans for a complex "Klein Bottle" installation (a model of which appears in the window at Buena Vista) to be sponsored by Design Miami. "It’s really about form leading to content and then expressing that content," says Vincent.

That may be so. But with everything else in the Design District barreling forward undaunted during Basel’s closing weekend—the designer-made dog houses on display in the Kartell showroom; a recreation of Le Corbusier's seaside cabin at Poltrona Frau; Alessi's show of designs from Cranbrook—Acconci's piece still seems a critical gesture, a meditative moment amid the ever-accelerating glam of Miami in 2012.