Tampa Bay Design Week shapes Tampa's future

The building blocks for a new city are popping up one by one. 

Creative minds are at play re-inventing the experience of living in the city of Tampa. Designers, architects, urban planners and artists are bringing their visions to street scapes and to the brick-and-mortar hotels and residential towers that are defining the city's skyline.

More residents are opting to live in the city's urban core where they can live, work and play among the restaurants, art galleries, offices, hotels and night spots that are beginning to make Tampa hum 24/7.

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) Tampa Bay is seizing the moment of transformative change to host the inaugural Tampa Bay Design Week from Nov. 5-8 with exhibits, films, music performances and a day-long block party on North Franklin Street. 

All events are open to the public and most are free of charge.

"Design has the power to affect everyone at some level in a positive way," says Kim Headland says, chair of AIA's design week committee and past AIA president. She is a principal at Wilder Architecture. "There's a bigger interest in design and how it affects daily life." 

A series of events centered on the theme "Power of Design" will bring together designers, artists, city leaders and residents for celebration and a kaleidoscopic look at the shifting  colors and shapes of Tampa's future. With this first Design Week, Tampa is joining the ranks of major cities such as Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis in highlighting the energy and innovations of the new urban lifestyle.

"It's the next phase in the evolution of our city and the growth and development of our city," says architect Mickey Jacob of BDG Architects. "It's a natural step forward and a wonderful way to celebrate what we have."

The kick-off event is Carousel No. 4 at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the historical Kress Building on Franklin Street. An on-going curated photographic exhibit will feature short slide shows from Tampa Bay area photographers, followed by a question and answer dialog.

A Rock the Park concert on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park will also feature a GalleryAIA: Utopia Tampa multi-media exhibit on the verandah of the Tampa Museum of Art. The display will reflect on what downtown Tampa can or should become.

Other events through the week include "Do the Local Motion" walking tours of Tampa's architectural assets and boutique hotels as well as the Urban Bike Tour which will feature stops at some of Tampa's newest hotels, such at the Epicurean on South Howard and Le Meridien in downtown.

Jacob will be a guest speaker on the Urban Bike Tour being organized by Tampa Downtown Partnership and the locally-owned Florida Bike Tours, which offers Urban Restaurant Tours twice a month. The tour will begin at 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery in Hyde Park and make stops at The Epicurean, Aloft Tampa Downtown and Le Meridien Tampa. The $15 fee includes small plates at some of the restaurant destinations.

The Epicurean, a South Tampa boutique hotel, is a prime example of urban infill. "It really gives the neighborhood a new look and feel," Jacobs says. "It really does embrace the local as well as the travelers' market."

The hotel's restaurants and bar offer great meals and craft beers. And Bayshore Boulevard is a short distance by foot or bicycle. "You can experience the best that the city has to offer in one location," Jacob says.

Architect Stephanie Ferrell will offer insights on the architectural design that turned the Federal Courthouse into Le Meridien. Liberty Group developer Punit Shah will discuss his company's re-use of an old bank building which is now the Aloft hotel.

"Le Meridien and Aloft are very contrasting structures," says Rachel Radawec, executive administrative assistant with Tampa Downtown Partnership and a member of design week's steering commitee. "Both are adapted re-use but inside you get a different feel for each. It's a different atmosphere at each."

Three documentaries will be shown free of charge including "Urbanized" which looks at how other cities have addressed designs for public spaces, transportation and housing. "Design Is One" looks at the career of Italian Modernist designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli. And "Sign Painters" is about the artisans who paint the signs that are part of a city's history and commercial life.

Design week will conclude with Design Franklin Street: A Pop-Up Block Party from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 8. Eight teams of about 60 designers, artists, architects, engineers and contractors will showcase design installations from landscaped linear parks with a musical bench, an art walk, children's games and shaded lounging areas to a large scale installation, dubbed "Urban Confetti," that will dominate the middle of Franklin.

Music, tours and an urban scavenger hunt will highlight this family-friendly festival.

"With the growth of Tampa over the coming years, we thought it was time for us to take notice of what's going on," says Radawec. "A lot of projects are just completed or in the works. You're starting to see a city reborn."

For complete details, follow this link to Tampa Bay Design Week.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer living in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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