During the evening, Oka Doner shared her design vision for the project’s sunken lobby gardens, which consist of a custom bronze radius table and unique benches coated with Cipollino marble, marvelously integrated into the building’s architecture. She worked closely with award-winning architect Rene González‘s plans to create functional art within the property.
Both architect and designer were sensitive to the building’s historic location, the tropical beauty provided by century-old trees, plus its sense of nostalgia. González said, “Like all of my work, Louver House is designed to both reflect and respond to its environment. The building embraces the tropical qualities of the South of Fifth neighborhood and reinterprets them for contemporary living.”
Oka Doner’s interest in the project evolved out of her friendship with the architect. “I’ve known Rene González for many years,” she said. “We’ve both been involved with the Wolfsonian Museum, which is how we initially met. As our friendship grew, he brought me to this project because it had a preservation requirement — to maintain the historical and tropical feel of this neighborhood — and he knew I would be sensitive to it.” Oka Doner has always focused on the environment, a passion fueled by her lifelong study and appreciation of the natural world. She spoke about Calophyllum trees on Meridian Avenue, which are over 100 years old, and how important it is to maintain them. The Urban Forestry Section has worked to preserve the trees, which were damaged in the past and have undergone restoration pruning.
Oka Doner also discussed and signed her new book, Into the Mysterium, about displays she discovered at Miami’s Marine Invertebrate Museum, with row after row of specimen jars—almost a million amorphous forms floating in mysterious fluids, a vast universe of dramatic underwater creatures. “The human inheritance is embedded in the Mysterium,” she said. “And when we stare into the specimen jars with probing eyes and inquiring minds, wanting the secrets and marveling at the diversity, the complexity, we move from our smaller selves into a oneness of being.”
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