For Miami architect Rene Gonzalez, the best design solutions come from odd or interesting problems. When confronted with specific contexts and environmental conditions, he takes them as an opportunity to give life and energy to a project.
Context, weather, and native architectural types guide each project, such as with a series of houses that lie in flood planes. Gonzalez found that raising them on pilotis not only protects them from flooding and saves the clients enormous amounts of money on insurance, but it also becomes a way to create social areas on the ground while offering a respite in the private spaces above.
He is not concerned with novel forms or flashy projects, but with spatial experiences cultivated from materials, light, and the surroundings. “I am interested in capturing the essence and qualities of a place and representing them,” Gonzalez told AN.
A Cuban-American and native Floridian, Gonzalez spent time in Los Angeles in the 1980s during the heyday of experimental California architecture. Those influences stuck with him and today his work is about testing new ideas with materials, such as bush-hammered marble, floating concrete planes, and laser-cut metal panels. As the firm begins to work at larger scales, such as community centers and condo towers, that experimental attitude will produce a new range of unexpected designs.
Prairie Avenue Residence
Miami Beach, Florida
Situated in a flood zone, the Prairie Residence is a single-family home that sits elevated by columns. The design is inspired by the native buildings found in the region, including Seminole huts and Biscayne Bay’s Stiltsville. The result is a pair of pavilions that soar above the sculptural garden, Concrete planes frame the spaces, separated by glass details that give the impression of floating.
Miami Beach, Florida
GLASS is an 18-story residential tower in a heavily art deco part of Miami Beach. The base of tower is designed to meet the urban context and relate to surrounding four- and five-story buildings. The tower was conceived as water, and dissipates as it rises and reflects the natural landscape around it. Open floor plans offer 360-degree views for the 10 units, each of which occupies an entire floor.
One of three Alchemist stores designed by Gonzalez, this is a spin on the classic jewelry shop, with Gonzalez’s signature material innovation. The exterior is covered in rose-gold-colored mirrors that reflect the surroundings of the Miami’s Design District. Inside, walls of green Costa Esmeralda Granite transition from smooth and polished to rough and bush-hammered, complementing interspersed panels of rose-gold glass. The custom display cases are made of glass and onyx.
Long Island, New York
Located on a precarious site in a wetland preserve flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Mecox Bay on the other, the Hamptons Residence is a two-story private home that is raised on stilts to protect against the possibility of a storm surge. The glass facade is designed to reflect the surroundings, and is developed as a collage to break up the views and frame them as a spatial experience, rather than one panorama.
Hear more from Gonzalez and others in the AEC industry, and participate in exclusive local field trips, at Facades+ Miami this fall. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.