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Design and Drive
By Drew Limsky | Photo: by Nick Garcia | January 29, 2018
He was a tennis player on the pro circuit. Now he’s a business partner at Italkraft. Yury Bettoni gets behind the wheel of a 2018 Lexus LS to tour the architectural icons of South Beach—and his latest project at One Thousand Museum.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Italian-American Yury Bettoni is a true global citizen. The former pro athlete could have lived anywhere in the world, but he’s become a Miami fixture (he’s even appeared in Ballers, the HBO series that was shot in town). The reason? Design. “When I decided to live in Miami, I definitely wanted to live in the Art Deco District,” he says. “I wanted to live the history of Miami Beach.” It was when Bettoni was investing in properties in South of Fifth that he met Alex Xakoustis, the president of Italkraft; the two became friends, and Xakoustis suggested that the retired athlete start his second act with the luxury kitchen brand.
Thus Bettoni proves to be a natural choice to lead Interiors South Florida on a local architectural tour. He provides the insight. The new silver Lexus LS sedan provides the attitude. From Ocean Drive, we pull up to The Betsy hotel and hang a left into the alley. After overseeing an expansion that saw the completion of an art deco wing, hotel owner Jonathan Plutzik is determined to activate the alley on The Betsy’s north side. That has meant the addition of public art—most prominently, the white Orb that connects the two wings—as well as an Italian restaurant called (naturally) The Alley.
“I’ve lived in Italy,” Bettoni says. “The alley is narrow, like in Rome, and now that it has the pizzeria, it has an Italian feeling. It’s art deco with an Italian flavor. The Orb is great because it gives the alley character; it gives it life. People stop, look and think. There has to be a little mystery in every architectural design, so people can add their own interpretations.” The talk of architecture makes Bettoni eager to show me Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum downtown, with which he’s intimately familiar. Bettoni, who joined Italkraft in 2014, was instrumental in putting together the deal between Italkraft and Poliform that resulted in One Thousand Museum’s one-of-a-kind kitchens. So we hit the road. On MacArthur Causeway, he handles the Lexus expertly, with a need for speed. Like a true Italian.
The tower is not even complete, yet its exoskeleton is already world-famous. As we approach, Bettoni pays tribute to the late icon: “Zaha Hadid famously said, ‘There should be no end to experimentation.’ Italkraft shares the same philosophy, which is why the two make great collaborators.” Up in the sales center, he points out the seamlessness of the kitchen’s design like a proud papa, from the sleek pocket doors to the integrated handles and the molded wood cutlery tray. Above the quartz countertop, Hadid’s otherworldly swirls—a futuristic interpretation of art nouveau—climb across the ceiling.
On the return trip to South Beach, we cruise past the portal building of the Port of Miami tunnel, designed by Miami’s ArquitectonicaGEO. The concrete structure is engraved with the conjugated Latin word for navigation: navigo, navigant, navigaverint. “I’ve driven past this at night and the words are lit up in tropical Miami colors,” Bettoni says. “The portal adds another landmark to Miami, where there’s something around every corner, like in Rome, except these are modern landmarks.”
As the golden hour arrives, we pull up to the 1111 Lincoln parking garage, one of Bettoni’s favorite structures. “It’s by Herzog & de Meuron based in Basel, Switzerland, so there’s that connection to Miami and Art Basel,” Bettoni says. “It meets my idea of architecture: minimal and very tropical because it brings the outside in. The second, fifth and seventh floors were designed to host parties—that’s why these floors have higher ceilings. At one party I remember looking down to see the garden by Raymond Jungles. It looked equatorial, like the garden of my house in Africa.” We repeat the experience in the Lexus, climbing floor by floor, threading our way through 1111’s trapezoidal columns.
We park the LS and take in the view. As the sun drops behind the cityscape, we agree that life in Miami’s design community, enjoying its modern monuments, is a life well lived.