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Great Escapes//5 Design Cities

Senso-ji Temple Tokyo

Photo courtesy of Y.Shimizu/JNTO

Exhilarating design abounds, from the ancient Senso-ji Temple to the Tokyo International Anime Fair.

The recent renaissance of Milan’s elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has seen the Seven Stars Galleria hotel and Gucci join longtime tenant Prada, whose first store opened here in 1913. Events such as Milan Fashion Week and the Salone Internazionale del Mobile furniture show every April attract designers and buyers from around the world who launch and laud the latest trends. The Antonio Citterio-designed Bulgari Hotel satisfies subdued modern tastes with rooms finished in serene oak and black marble.

The building boom that began in the late 1990s has slowed, but Berlin is maintaining its bustle. The Norman Foster-designed glass dome of the Reichstag continues to draw architectural accolades and crowds. Close by, the stunning Holocaust memorial, unveiled in 2005, features a tightly packed city block of 2,711 stone monoliths. Earlier design stars shine bright as well, including the 1968 Neue Nationalgalerie, which houses exemplary modern art within a dramatic Mies van der Rohe structure.

Mexico City
Mexico City’s assemblage of belle époque, art deco and international-style buildings is among the world’s most impressive. Late 20th-century works by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán beautifully meld Le Corbusier and Mexican influences. One of them is the architect’s home of 40 years, Casa Luis Barragán, which integrates indoor and outdoor spaces and boasts bold swaths of color. The peaceful Casa Azul (Blue House), now the Museo Frida Kahlo, displays numerous works by the artist in the place where she was born, lived and died. Newer to the city scene is the 2009 Cesar Pelli-designed St. Regis Hotel, close to Latin America’s tallest building, the 55-story green-glass Torre Mayor.

Each December, Art Basel Miami Beach brings 20th- and 21st-century works from more than 250 galleries around the world to Miami Beach’s Art Deco District. The district is also home to the Wolfsonian-Florida International University museum and research center, which focuses on architecture and decorative arts from 1885 to 1945. The nearby Miami Design District dates to the 1920s, but has gained traction in recent years with the opening of galleries, exhibition spaces and furniture showrooms.

Exhilarating design abounds, from the ancient (the Sensō-ji Temple, the oldest in Tokyo) to anime (the Tokyo International Anime Fair in March attracts thousands of industry players and fans) to the avant-garde (the 2007 National Art Center with its undulating glass façade). Find the newest flagships for luxury brands on one of Tokyo’s most beautiful boulevards, Omotesando, where the architecture draws as much attention as the wares.

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