South Florida Business Journal Executive Profile: Liora Hayman
OBMI’s Liora Haymann on how she became an architect
Written by: Brian Bandell, Senior Reporter, South Florida Business Journal
Liora Haymann and OBMI have been designing projects in the Caribbean, Central America and the Middle East for years without many projects stateside. Now the Miami-based architecture firm has turned its attention to South Florida.
The firm was founded in Bermuda and still has an office there. It opened a Miami office 15 years ago and now has 35 employees from 31 nations, she said.
Many of its projects are in the hospitality sector, such as the St. Regis Bermuda and the Pasito Lux and Pasito Blanco in the Canary Islands. Recently, OBMI crafted the Block 40 tower – with hotel rooms, apartments and commercial space – in Hollywood.
What was your first job? I was into creating paper flowers, and my father helped me sell them. In college, I took an internship in an architect’s office in Santiago, designing kitchens and closets.
When did you know you wanted to be an architect? I always liked to draw and to make objects. My father had an interior design practice, so I spent a lot of time there playing with pens. It seemed to be a natural evolution of that. But I do love words and writing, and I love math. I was looking for something that could bring all of that together.
Which architects have inspired you? From a more traditional perspective, Frank Lloyd Wright is a very inspiring figure, especially as a trailblazer. More recently, I love PAMM, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, [as] I think Herzog & de Meuron are inspiring designers.
How do you manage a global operation? In a large project like a hotel that may take two or three years to develop, we could work with 22 specialists. They will be anywhere in the world because our clients are high end and looking for the best. We have our core designers here, and their whole team travels to a location first for a workshop. Our projects are based on a workshop over two or three days, a very interactive brainstorming process with the client. Every six weeks, for a project like this, we will have these workshop meetings. And in between, we will work on digital meetings with cameras. We travel approximately every six weeks.
What has been the most satisfying project you’ve worked on? I enjoyed a project in Mexico, a town center for Zibata. We designed a master plan for the town center. It is a mixed use and has a lagoon, a real urban feel creating a pedestrian environment.
What architecture trends have you most excited? Hotels have moved from being only a temporary residence to integrating other functions. You are not just creating the hotel, but a neighborhood and a lifestyle around it and other amenities. The breaking down of the spacial barriers in the public spaces of the hotel. The lobby, lounge and dining all come together and become more open spaces. Bringing in public art. The lobby of a hotel is not a reception area. It becomes a living space.
How did you help your father publish his book? My father has a very interesting story. Years ago, he wanted to put it onto paper. Until then, I really didn’t know anything about that story. Families that went through the war tend to be silent about it. And generally my parents didn’t want to imprint that into their children. They lost a son. My father saved letters he had exchanged with his parents [after they immigrated to Chile from Germany] for 10 years when he was in Europe in World War II. I had to first translate them from German to Spanish so our family could read them. I brought in graphic designers to create that aspect of the book. I wrote tons of sidebars explaining what had happened at the time, and I did a lot of research. It was a wonderful experience because I learned about my family history …. Now I want to translate this to English. That is my next project.
How did you get into teaching yoga and dance? I love movement. It’s a space where you take care of your health – not only physical, but also mental. I studied dance when I grew up, and it was always a strong medium of expression for someone who didn’t like to talk a lot. … I can deal with emotions and resolve a lot of issues and just keep going with a sense of stability …. I started studying yoga in Chile. When I came to Miami, and for a while I wasn’t working, I decided to get certified [as an instructor] and use my time in a more productive way. …When you design a project, it can take very long to be built. When you are teaching, and you have a consistent student, within two months you can see the results.
Birthplace: Santiago, Chile
Residence: Coral Gables
Current position: Managing Director, OBMI
Community involvement and boards: Award Committee of the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit
Previous position: Partner, Urbe in Chile
Education: Architecture degree, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; M.S. in architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology