The Flashy Sophistication of Arquitectonica’s Modern Designs

Architectural firms often come and go, but one that has remained constant in the Miami scene is Arquitectonica. Founded in 1977, the firm has become a global mainstay with projects across 5 different continents and 54 nations. But, its design-oriented teeth were cut in the Miami cityscape it calls home.

In fact, one of the prime reasons for the company’s global allure is its attention to modern design, geometry, and colorful patterns. It owes much of its design savvy to its two principals: Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear. The former is a native of Lima, Peru who engaged in his early studies in Europe. He went on to study architecture and urban planning at Princeton University before earning a Master of Architecture from Harvard.

His co-founding cohort, Laurinda Spear, is also no stranger to the Ivy League. She earned a fine arts degree from Brown University and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University. She also earned a Master of Landscape Architecture a little closer to home at Florida International University.

Both are fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and both have received the AIA Silver Medal for their work. Fort-Brescia largely focuses on major architectural and planning projects, many of which have gone on to define the sights of modern Miami. Spear, on the other hand, is responsible for steering Arquitectonica into different fields like interior design and landscape architecture.

Their combined architectural prowess can be seen in the wealth of commercial, residential, and multi-use structures Arquitectonica has designed over the years. The firm has been responsible for many Miami icons including the American Airlines Arena, the home of the 3-time NBA Championship-winning, Miami Heat. They have also added residential towers, hotels, museums, theaters, convention centers, retail complexes, and many more to their repertoire over the years.

Projects by Arquitectonica

Since 1977, the firm has been at the forefront of modern design in Miami and across the globe. Of course, many of its most iconic structures can be found dominating the Miami landscape, but the firm’s over 800 architects have designed projects near and far with a keen eye on global innovation.

Atlantis Condominium

This 20-story project on Ocean Drive is likely one of the most iconic buildings Arquitectonica has designed. In 1980, two years before construction was even finished, the design won a Progressive Architecture award. The steely glass façade was featured in the opening credits of Miami Vice, and Florida’s AIA chapter named it one of the top 100 buildings in Florida. It’s an early example of Arquitectonica’s penchant for bright primary colors and interesting geometric features.

Icon Brickell

The name speaks for itself. This trio of towers is an icon in the Miami skyline. It consists of the Icon Brickell North Tower and the Icon Brickell South Tower which are identical, each consisting of 58 floors and rising to 586 feet. The Viceroy Tower, which houses the Viceroy Hotel and several residential units is 500 feet tall and offers picturesque views of the Biscayne Bay.

Miami Children’s Museum

The design of the Miami Children’s Museum on Watson Island is a showcase of Arquitectonica’s range. Incorporating their iconic chromatic and geometric sensibilities with an almost childlike aesthetic, the museum is certainly a sight to behold. The 56,500-square-foot building features 14 galleries that are aimed at children of virtually all ages.


Built in 2008, MarinaBlue is the 5th-tallest residential building in the state of Florida. The towering sky-blue complex is one of the hottest places in town to settle down. It’s located on Biscayne Boulevard in the heart of downtown Miami. In fact, it’s situated across the street from another Arquitectonica project, the American Airlines Arena.


Located in Hong Kong, the Cyberport is one of Arquitectonica’s numerous international projects. It consists of several buildings including a boutique hotel, a conference center, and over 27,000 square meters of retail and entertainment space in The Arcade. The Cyberport is one of Hong Kong’s premier destinations for tourism, residential living, shopping, and entertainment. Its design again features many of the hallmarks you’d expect from an Arquitectonica-designed building.

Cosmopolitan Casino Resort in Las Vegas

One of Arquitectonica’s biggest projects is clearly the Cosmopolitan Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Located on the Las Vegas Strip, the Cosmopolitan is a shining (albeit heavily tinted) glass structure that towers over many of its contemporaries. With nearly 3,000 rooms and over 600,000 square feet of multi-purpose space, the Cosmopolitan is widely considered one of the best hotels on the planet.

City of Dreams

Another casino resort, the City of Dreams in Macau, is also among Arquitectonica’s past efforts. The water-themed complex rises like a blue diamond in the Macau cityscape. There are four towers in the complex and you can find over 420,000 square feet of gaming space on the property.

Bronx Museum of the Arts

One of the highlights in Arquitectonica’s back catalog is the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The design has been described as almost minimalistic with its pleated geometry and an unobtrusive interior. In any event, it’s often considered one of the most sophisticated buildings in the Bronx.

Amelia Rozas Shines at the Miami Home Show

Amelia Rozas, an interior designer and architect, recently showcased her design prowess at this year’s Miami Home Show held from March 27 through March 30. She was one of only four interior design professionals who showed off their room designs working off the connection between art and interior design.

Rozas’ original piece was inspired by the art of Paolo Ambu and was featured in the Designer Showcase room at the Miami Home Show. The selection of muted colors and soft pastels was designed to exhibit and complement the comfort and airiness of Ambu’s artistic work.

Rozas designed both a living area and a bedroom set which evoked artistry and livability. Both rooms possess a flourish of whites and grays set against a soft brown backdrop. White flowers offer a unique natural accent while a notched wooden wall exhibits the openness of both spaces.

Both Rozas and Ambu were available for conversation during the exhibition of the Rozas-designed room. This is not the first time that Rozas’ work has appeared at the Miami Home Show. She also had an installation in last year’s where she worked off the art of Alex Turco. The 2014 showcase demonstrated her ability to turn art into space and make a room both aesthetically pleasing and eminently functional.

Rozas is the principal of the Amelia Rozas Designs firm based in Miami, Florida. She is a Certified International Staging and Redesign Professional and has helped numerous clients envision more fluid and artistic spaces in their homes. She has also been a part of numerous home shows and conferences and was a featured speaker at the fall Miami Home Show.

Her services involve everything from full home interior design and decorative assistance to redesign and home staging. She also works in the commercial arena to help businesses with their interior design needs.

Rozas earned a bachelor’s degree from Universidad Iberoamericana del Caribe in the Dominican Republic and her master’s from Florida International University. She completed her thesis at Universita degli Studi di Genova in Genoa, Italy. Her international experience has undoubtedly contributed to her overall design aesthetic.


The Eco-Friendly, Future-Focused Architecture of Kobi Karp

Miami architect, Kobi Karp, is no stranger to innovation and restoration. He is the mastermind behind two new skyscrapers on the Miami skyline: Empire World Towers and 1101 Brickell. But, he is also a major proponent of restoration, having worked on maintaining the beauty of Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco District.
His firm, Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design (KKAID), was founded in 1996 and is also based in Miami, but it has designed structures everywhere from the Caribbean to the Black Sea. Karp is known for his star partnerships with companies like Hilton, Hyatt, Club Med, and others, and he has received a flurry of recognition and rewards from organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Resort Development Association, and the Miami Design Preservation League.
Karp was educated at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology where he earned degrees in architecture and environmental design. It was this interest in the environmental aspect of architecture that led him to spearhead the construction of “green” buildings in South Florida before it was even in vogue. Energy efficient and stylish buildings are very much a hallmark of Karp’s design.
The architectural style employed by KKAID is often an amalgamation of environmental and logistical concerns. The firm has overseen the construction of everything from low-rise, commercial, and residential structures to high-rise and mixed-use buildings. In everything Karp designs, there is a unique touch of the outside world mixed with both historical context and contemporary styling. It’s the reason why he and his firm are some of the most trusted advocates for architectural design in America.
Kobi Karp’s Projects
The Karp firm has worked on numerous projects throughout the world, some of which have been extremely high-profile. Below, you’ll find some of the most prominent projects that Karp has worked on over the years.
Art Deco District Restoration
After years of owner neglect and architectural disrepair, the Art Deco District in Miami Beach was no longer the sparkling, internationally-renowned area where high-profile guests had stayed at posh hotels since the 1930’s. Instead, many hotels in the district had leaky pipes, moldy interiors, and a rundown aesthetic. Kobi Karp, along with many other architects and concerned people in general, took to restoring the area. Karp’s firm was responsible for restoring the Breakwater, the Astor, and the Clevelander.
Of course, since the restoration in the 90’s and early 00’s, Karp has added more of his unique flair to the district. In 2005, a condominium he designed was built right next to the Congress Hotel which has been standing since 1936. The condominium complex was designed to blend in with its art deco surroundings to keep the iconic Moderne aesthetic intact.
New construction in the Art Deco District often follows a streamlined Moderne aesthetic, contextual with its 1930s neighbors.  Here the Congress Hotel designed by Henry Hohauser in 1936 sits next to a 2005 condominium by Kobi Karp, AIA.
Baylights Condominium
One of Karp’s signature projects is the Baylights Condominium complex and it’s not just because the high-profile structure offers panoramic views of the Biscayne Bay to its inhabitants. The United States Green Building Council deemed it the first “green condo development” in South Florida. The complex has 12 units, and each one is fitted with energy efficient air conditioners, green appliances, and tinted windows to keep the hot Floridian sun out. On top of that, the Japanese garden landscaping is filled with drought-resistant plant species that ensures water conservation.
One of Karp’s signature projects is the Baylights Condominium complex and it’s not just because the high-profile structure offers panoramic views of the Biscayne Bay to its inhabitants. The United States Green Building Council deemed it the first “green condo development” in South Florida. The complex has 12 units, and each one is fitted with energy efficient air conditioners, green appliances, and tinted windows to keep the hot Floridian sun out. On top of that, the Japanese garden landscaping is filled with drought-resistant plant species that ensures water conservation.
Baylights Condo Miami Beach
1101 Brickell
Although currently under construction, this residential high-rise will be an iconic sight on the Miami skyline. In fact, it will be the tallest building in the state for at least a couple of years after it’s finished. Now known as the Panorama Tower, the project will feature over 800 luxury apartments, 250 hotel rooms, and plenty of retail and office space on the lower levels.
An already completed building at the base of the future tower, the Cube, was also designed by Kobi Karp. The energy and space efficient construction has been lauded by architects and pedestrians alike.
Hyatt at 1600 Collins
Built in 1950, the Tropical Gardens Apartment building was a small and often overlooked structure in the South Beach landscape. When Kobi Karp teamed up with Hyatt to create a unique 100-unit luxury hotel, it became something different altogether. The proposal is to keep most of the original two-story building’s façade and then add on to it with eight stories of flashy glass construction. The plan calls for a centrally-located and sky-lit atrium and a rooftop pool.
Publix in Sunny Isles Beach
Kobi Karp has also been associated with a plan by grocery market chain, Publix, to devise a 21-story tower with over 350 residential units. The lower floor will consist of a 54,000 square-foot shopping center. The residential units would feature wrap-around balconies and free views of the ocean.
International Edifices
The Karp firm is known throughout the world for its innovative and modern designs. Karp has been the principal on numerous projects outside the United States including the Dongshan Tourist Center in China, the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, the Baku Icon Tower in Azerbaijan, and the Queen Effat Cultural Exhibition Center in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (among many others).
Clearly, Karp’s design intuition has far-reaching appeal for clients across the globe. His firm has worked on just about every type of construction imaginable, and each one still manages to have a distinct “Karpian” aesthetic. They are also designed with an eye on environmental practicality to make the most energy efficient and eco-friendly buildings possible.



South Florida might be known for its world-class beaches and preeminent party life, but Rene Gonzalez is making his name in a distinctly different field. He is the founder of the Miami-based Rene Gonzalez Architect firm that has designed everything from spacious compounds for billionaires to upscale department stores in Miami Beach. In everything he does, Rene Gonzalez exudes a touch of contemporary style and a connection between the inside and outside worlds.
Indeed, Rene Gonzalez’s architectural acumen is based largely on the connection between humanity and nature. Some might even say it’s why many of his buildings are seemingly made of glass. According to Gonzalez, his works are both utilitarian and artistic, combining elements of cultural and local interest with elements of sound structural design. His structures simultaneously stand out and blend in with the local environment so much so that the construction is almost seamless.
Gonzalez’s unique style has led him to the lectern, teaching architecture and design principles at schools like UCLA, the University of Miami, and the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He even sits on the Advisory Board at the Wolfsonian Florida International University and is an Honorary Trustee at MoCA Miami.
His firm has also garnered significant industry recognition since its founding in 1997. The American Institute of Architecture has bestowed several design awards upon the firm, including the prestigious Firm of the Year Award in 2011. The firm also won national awards for the design of two complexes—Karla in 2006 and Alchemist in 2011.
Projects by Rene Gonzalez Architect
Over the span of a relatively short existence, Gonzalez’s firm has managed to create immediately iconic buildings that capture the essence of their locale. One of his most well-known projects isIndian Creek, a home made primarily of glass and limestone that became the most expensive residence ever sold in Miami-Dade County in 2013. The 47 million-dollar villa is located on the exclusive Indian Creek Island and comes complete with a garden landscape with 5 floating pavilions, garden walls, and stone walkways. The home’s design captures the warm South Floridian sun while offering expansive views of the cool blue water.
The Most Expensive Home Sold on Record in Miami-Dade, Florida - 3 Indian Creek Island Estate
Of course, the firm’s expertise isn’t limited to single-family residences. In keeping with Miami’s trends, the firm has lent its architectural prowess to smaller, but decidedly chic condominium complexes like the 12-unit Louver House. Located in Miami’s posh South of Fifth neighborhood, the Louver House is a picture of elegance and laidback warmth complete with a rooftop pool and countless louvers (appropriately) lining the balconies. Units in the glassy, modern building range from 2,088 square feet to 2,432 square feet.
Another recent fixture in the South of Fifth neighborhood is Gonzalez’s GLASS condominium complex. The complex, which has a shiny exterior of opaque glass, has been likened to living inside a cube of water. You can see out, but outsiders can’t see in. The ultra-exclusive complex features 18-stores with just 10 residences. Prices for units in the building are between $9 million and $35 million. The first 5 floors house the lobby, the pool, and other common areas and are designed to provide a unique connection with the sand and the surf outside. As you go higher in the building, the effect is supposed to be like disappearing in the sky.
Perhaps the most recognizable of all Rene Gonazalez’s creations is the upscale Alchemist retail store. Located in Miami Beach, the store is effectively split it into two unique areas: the Alchemist Skyboutique shop and the Alchemist Ground department store. The Sky iteration of Alchemist is located on the fifth floor of a Herzog and de Meuron-designed parking garage. It has been described as a “hovering glass box” filled with eye-catching colors and reflective materials. Interactive mirrors within the shop ripple in conjunction with physical movements.
The Alchemist Ground store is filled with mirrors and windows that simultaneously reflect and illuminate. The design is actually a contrast to the boisterousness and constant motion of the Miami Beach atmosphere. It is a calm, colorful, and cool place to experience both the impressive architectural feats and the mass of high-fashion apparel.
One of the firm’s newer and most ambitious projects is located in the Long Island wetlands in New York. The Hamptons residence, which almost literally hovers over the environment, is yet another example of how to use glass and reflective material with great success. Although the house is built near an oft-visited beach and bay area, it still manages to offer with interior courtyards, a double-glass skin that can closes residents off from the outside, and 4 private terraces in the four upstairs bedrooms.
Clearly, Gonzalez’s affinity for the modern and the natural is unparalleled. His structures have provided a cool, calm, and airy aesthetic to locales across the world. If you’re going to get anything from a Rene Gonzalez-designed building, then it’s the combination of cutting edge and aesthetically primitive. These principles can certainly be seen in locations like Indian Creek and the Hamptons residence. And they will continue to emanate from any and all future endeavors taken on by Rene Gonzalez Architect.

Vasco Vieira of Arqui + Arquitectura

The built-in swimming pool has always been a staple of luxury homes, at least those in warm climates. And in recent years, the infinity pool is almost a necessity for luxury homeowners. But the bar has been raised: Vasco Vieira of Arqui + Arquitectura has turned the notion of the in-ground infinity pool on its head.Casa Vale do Lobo, built on the Vale do Lobo golf resort in Southern Portugal, includes a swimming pool in a concrete base, cantilevered over a reflecting pool below.

It is meant as both utilitarian pool and sculptural element, and one can imagine passersby pondering this work of art. The upper pool’s water overflows, cascading into the shallow reflecting pool, creating calming sounds. Unlike standard in-ground pools, unattractive fences to prevent one from falling into deep water are not needed, allowing the courtyard and pool to create a cohesive visual effect.The U-shaped home has solid outer walls, denoting private space away from the golf course that the structure borders.

Transparent glazing on the inner walls, however, allow for a connection between interior and exterior. Through the use of transparent and solid materials, Vieira plays with light and shadow. Wood paneling, glass, black tiles, concrete, and gray sandstone floors have all been used to this effect, as well as to create a sense of flow through spaces and demarcate public and private areas.The two-story northern wing houses five bedrooms, all of which grant easy access to the communal single-story living area. And then there is another pool—the roof of the main living space is a terrace with a “mini” pool and outdoor living and cookout areas. Other entertainment areas can be found in the semi-buried basement, including a game room, cinema, and spa.

A double garage and service areas are also found here.The exterior is a lesson in geometry: Vieira uses flat, straight, horizontal and vertical lines that appear as if they could continue into infinity. They have no clear stopping points and draw one’s eye through to the horizon. Only the stairs create diagonals, but even these are made with minimal materials and horizontal and vertical lines, leaving the space beneath them empty.Vieira was no stranger to the Vale do Lobo Resort when designing this one-of-a-kind home. Before founding Arqui+ in 2004, he was the resort’s chief architect and construction director.

He has been building in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, for fifteen years. His aim is to create contemporary, innovative designs there while maintaining the region’s essence through materials and the quality of light. Vieira has not always worked amongst the Algarve’s sandy beaches and year-round sunshine, however. He studied and trained for ten years in South Africa before settling in Portugal, giving him international experience.The architect has designed villas in other Algarve resorts, including for Waratah Properties. While many of these houses maintain the strict rectilinearity seen in Casa Vale do Lobo, in at least one home Vieira embraces more organic forms, demonstrating his ability to expand ideas of minimalism.

The villa’s exterior form, as seen from above, resembles intersecting half-circles. It hugs its surrounding green landscape, rather than standing above it.Vieira has received numerous awards, including being named one of the top ten architects internationally by Homes Overseas magazine in 2004, and has continued to recognize his work since; CNBC Property Awards has also given him a Best Architecture and Best European Development awards in 2009, among others in previous years.If Vieira continues to design luxury villas at high-end resorts, we should hope to see a new reinvention of luxury entertainment. What mundane utilitarian object will became a luxurious sculpture next?

SPBR Architects

Brazilian architectural firm SPBR Architects was brought to the forefront of American architects last year when firm head and founder Angelo Bucci received a 2011 AIA Honorary Fellowship for design. The honorary fellowship is awarded to non–U.S. citizens or residents who practice mostly outside of the AIA domain, for their contributions to the architectural profession.

Bucci’s achievements include a range of built projects. SPBR focuses on meaningful projects with a coherent structure that maintains logical, seamless flow between interior and exterior spaces.

In the recent years before Bucci received the AIA award, SPBR had completed two residential projects that remain, arguably, its most well known and significant. The House in Ubatuba, near Tenório’s beach in São Paulo, sits on a hard and steep hill surrounded by trees, all of which are protected by environmental regulations.

The house, completed in 2009, appears to float among the trees. Looking at it from the beach, a wood and concrete side peaks through the top of the tree-covered hill, but its connection to the ground is unclear. From inside looking out, views of the sea, beach, and trees dominate—it is a modernist, luxury treehouseBut the structure does, of course, touch the ground: three columns of reinforced concrete support four steel beams that allow slabs to hang from above. The top terrace is at street level, and a bridge connects house to street, further emphasizing a sense of isolation amongst the trees. Another bridge leads to a rooftop pool and the house’s second volume.

 Inside, large, open spaces are completed with a strategic mix of furnishings—including a wicker couch and wing-back chair in one living space, and a slip-covered sofa in another. Walls are bare, showcasing the building’s materials. Creams, natural-looking woods, white, and tans create a soothing ambience. Minimalism and a traditional beach-home feel intertwine; the starkness of minimalism is made comfortable.

 Unlike the Ubatuba house, for SPBR’s 2008 Santa Teresa project, one volume sits firmly on high ground, while an adjacent and perpendicular volume floats one story above its lower ground. In this historical neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, the SPBR house is on one of the highest points in the town, providing views of the center of Rio, the Sugar Loaf, and Guanabara Bay.

 The living room is on the higher level with kitchen in an open space below, and bedrooms and office on the lower level. The facades of each volume are planned around sun heat and views. The lower portion is closed on north and south sides, while the east and west facades are open, the former to a garden. The upper volume is conversely closed on the east and west sides to avoid sun heat but glass window walls on the north and south showcase views of the downtown area and Guanabara Bay and Pão de Acucar.

 SPBR explores a wide variety of interests beyond unique residential projects. The firm received a Holcim Silver Award in 2008 for its Pontificial Catholic University in Rio Mediatheque in Rio de Janeiro, an energy-efficient media library. Bucci, who led the project, reduced energy consumption through “passive design elements including appropriate orientation, heat insulation, shaded windows, natural ventilation and natural lighting,” according to the Holcim Foundation—no small feat considering the climate control required for book and media preservation in the space.

 More recently, SPBR was one of twelve firms asked by former Miami Art Museum director Terence Riley to participate in the exhibition “The Street” in the fourth annual Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. Architects from five continents developed facades that showcased their design philosophies in late 2011/early 2012.

Prior to founding SPBR in 2003, Bucci was a partner at Arquitetura Paulista in 1989–1994 and a founding partner at MMBB Architects from 1996 to 2002. He continues to focus on both academic and professional pursuits. He is a lecturer at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, and has been a visiting professor or lecturer at universities around the world, including MIT, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Princeton, and University of California, Berkeley in the US, Università IUAV di Venezia in Italy, Torcuato Di Tella in Argentina, Universidad de Cuenca in Ecuador and Andres Bello in Chile.

Arata Isozaki

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki has made his mark on the profession—both in the physical landscape and in the minds, theories, and ideas of his colleagues. In the 1960s and 1970s, hewas a leading member of the Japanese new-wave movement, an avant-garde conceptual approach to architecture—though he aims to defy characterization within any single school of architectural thought. He approaches each project on its own merits, its place, its purpose, and its time.

The architect recently completed a national convention center in Qatar (the QNCC). Opened in 2011, it has been called “one of the greenest convention centers in the world,” no small feat for one of the world’s leading emission-emitting countries. The complex was the first of its kind to receive LEED Gold certification. Its green roof, with 3,600 square meters of solar panels supplies 12.5 percent of the building’s projected energy needs; inside, LED lights and fixtures and zone-based air control systems reduce energy consumption.

The QNCC, designed in conjunction with RHWL Architects, is the largest convention center in the Middle East.It can hold thousands of visitors and spectators, and houses ten performance venues, a conference hall and theater that together hold more than six thousand, dozens of meeting rooms, multiple three-tiered auditoriums, and forty thousand square meters of exhibition space. It is in Education City, situated near elite universities and research and technology institutions, and twenty minutes from the area’s central business district. The complex serves as an addition to what one DesignBoom writer called “a new global hub of ideas and innovation.”

Isozaki graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1954, and then worked for Kenzo Tange & Urtec until 1963, when he established his own practice as a designer and theorist. For more than half a century, he has been thinking, writing, building, and influencing. Isozaki has taught at many universities around the world, his work has been exhibited widely, and it is clear his ability to mentor young architects has reached into the walls of his office. His past employees include award-winning international architects Shigeru Ban and Jun Aoki. He has also served as an architectural critic and as a jury member for major public and private architecture competitions. His website profile states, simply and confidently: “he has contributed significantly to making the visions of the world’s most radical architects a reality.” Others have recognized his role as well: his numerous awards include the prestigious RIBA Gold Medal, which he was awarded in 1986.

Isozaki has been no stranger to significant cultural projects in major cities. Some of his most renowned projects include Gumma Prefectural Museum of Modern Art in Japan (1971–74), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1981–86), Team Disney Building in Orlando, Florida (1989–90), Olympic Stadium’s Sports Hall in Barcelona (1992), Kyoto Concert Hall in Japan (1995), and Shenzhen Cultural Center in China (2005). Such works are known for their bold forms, unique details, and a combination of local and international influences. For instance, his Team Disney Building, which received an AIA National Honor Award, uses a Japanese yin-yang theory of positive and negative space. He incorporated a looped gateway that resembles Mickey Mouse’s ears, a hint of his often-ironic approach to architecture, and he built an ornamental sundial into the central cylinder—a reference to the time-conscious businesspeople who would use the space.

In addition to more than half a century of architectural work, Isozaki has designed exhibitions and stages, and has curated numerous international exhibitions, including three architectural exhibitions at the Venice Biennales. And in the 1980s, he experimented with product design, including a scarf for Louis Vuitton, jewelry for Cleto Munali, and other works. As Isozaki continues to resist following specific style guidelines, we can continue to expect award-winning works that relate to social and cultural needs, place, and time.


Benjamin Garcia Saxe

Young creative types are often viewed as idealistic, expecting to stamp the world with their art. Architect/sculptor/designer Benjamin Garcia Saxe already has, and one presumes he will continue to do so in increasing degrees. According to his philosophy, posted on his website, Garcia believes in designing by instinct rather than by reason alone.His two most well-known projects are residences, one built of bamboo, and the other of discarded shipping containers. Both respond to occupants’ psychological and emotional needs as well as their physical ones.

In 2010, Saxereceived first place for a private house at the World Architecture Festival. The WAF jury was enthusiastic about the architect’s focus on the inhabitant’s practical and emotional needs and a new use of material. Titled A Forest for a Moon Dazzler, the winning project is a bamboo structure built for the architect’s mother. Sited in a Costa Rican forest, thecone-like roof is designed to open at night, providingthe skyward views Garcia’s mother desired after spending many years in a congested urban environment.

With a poured-concrete base, steel structure, and more than four thousand pieces of burlap-covered bamboo, Saxe constructed the two-room home for forty thousand dollars. The living and bedroom spaces are on either end of the house, connected by an internal courtyard/patio. The latter space can be completely opened to the outdoors with shutter doors. There, hammocks hanging from the side walls’ structural beams complete a feeling of serenity and relaxation. The structure’s openness brings the forest inside, according to the architect.

Garcia’s efforts at low-cost housing and finding ways for architecture to meet emotional needs have reached beyond family. His shipping-container house, finished in 2011, was for a couple whose limited finances and love for nature, their horses, and the rural outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica, led them to accept the architect’s unique idea. Garcia wrote that the project “allowed them to be debt free and live the life they always dreamed of. It was important for me to provide them with the sunrise, the sunset, the spectacular views, and . . . a feeling of comfort and home.”

Scrap pieces of metal taken from the sides—where Garcia constructed windows—were used for roofing between two containers. This construction creates openness and cross-ventilation so efficient the architect claims it has made air-conditioning redundant. Though small, the interiors look as modern as any luxury home, with a long kitchen with white cabinetry, a table and stylish high red chairs, a comfortable white couch, and a cozy bedroom with sleek surfaces.

Also ranking in at forty thousand dollars, the house is more affordable than other social housing in the area. Dubbed Containers of Hope, it is a model for reuse of discarded materials, passive temperature control, and efficiency.

Garcia earned his Master of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007, and has since worked for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in London. There, he served on the team designing a luxury complex in Seoul, South Korea, that includes retail, office, hotel, restaurant, parking, exhibition spaces. He was also on the award-winning team of NEO Bankside, a five-building residential/office/retail complex in London. The buildings, each with six sides, appear like sculptures next to the Tate Modern and the River Thames. External bracing created a steel diagrid on the facades, adding aesthetic interest while allowing for open-plan apartments inside. Completed in 2012, the project received numerous awards.

But at RSHP Garcia’s input and instincts are often absorbed into the complicated web of a large, international architecture firm, whose commissions and expenses are big. One hopes Garcia, and his creative idealistic visions, do not become permanently lost. His low-cost housing projects prove that there are more solutions to housing the poor, and buying without entering into debt than are frequently used. As the young architect continues to grow and react to his design instincts, it can be expected that he will continue to explore and promote his unique visions. Buthis mother can claim she experienced the young architect’s creativity and ingenuity first.


Max Strang’s Sustainable Tropical Modernism

Most Internet searches for successful architects turn up design blogs and magazines. But Max Strang’s name has become known in a very different medium. His own Coconut Grove, Florida, house was featured in the 2006 action-drama film Miami Vice. The nearly all-white five-bedroom home with tropical pool and spa and open-air upstairs living room is probably Strang’s most well-known house, having also been featured in Architectural Digest, the Wall Street Journal, the USA network’s show Burn Notice, and elsewhere.

Strang, principal and president of 2010 AIA Miami Firm of the Year recipient Max Strang Architecture, hasn’t been resting on his laurels, however. Although he recently moved to Telluride, Colorado—where he feels the immersion in nature helps him to focus creatively more than he could in the bustling Florida city—he telecommutes and visits the Miami-based firm monthly. His interest in creating modern, luxury, eco-friendly residences in tropical environments remains strong.

The firm’s motto, “Authenticity. Timelessness. Sustainability,” can be seen in its recent projects. Particularly dedicated to achieving LEED certification on the homes he designs, Strang is paving the way for eco-friendly architecture. His 2011 Lake House in Winter Haven, Florida, is the first LEED-certified residence there. The 5,500-square-foot house not only uses Resysta, a sustainable, non-plastic material akin to real wood, but also uses it more than any other residence had before. Made of rice husks, salt, and vegetable oil, Resysta has been called the “non-wood wood.” If the material is ever removed from the house, it is entirely recyclable.

The house is set on a sloping lakefront lot. The exterior shell is stucco and includes eight-foot overhangs that protect the house from the sun. Additionally, a solar photovoltaic system, hot-water heaters, geothermal HVAC, and LED lighting add to the home’s environmental features. The interior features large, open spaces surrounded by floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that provide natural light and cross ventilation.

Strang received his Bachelor’s of Architecture in 1994 from the University of Florida, and his Master’s from Columbia University, where he also received an honor award for design excellence. Before founding his own firm, he worked for Zaha Hadid in London; Gene Leedy, who designed Strang’s childhood home and was an influential figure in what is now known as the Sarasota school of architecture; and SHoP Architects in New York, where he worked on the award-winning Museum of Sex commission.Strang has received numerous awards from AIA Florida and AIA Miami; the latter named the firm 2010 Firm of the Year and Strang Young Architect of the Year in 2007 and 2003; in 2010, the Design Center of the Americas presented Max Strang a Star of Design award for architecture. He has also served on various urban planning boards, including Miami’s Planning Advisory Board and the Urban Environment League’s Board of Directors

Enrique Norten Impresses in Mexico and Miami

Enrique Norten founded his firm TEN (Taller de Enrique Norten) Arquitectos in Mexico City in 1986, but it started its rise to international acclaim upon opening a New York office in 2003. Now with more than seventy employees, both offices work on a range of projects from furniture design to single-family houses, to major cultural and institutional buildings and landscape and master planning.

In Puebla, Mexico, Norten designed a public square with an undulating ground that allows for gathering space above, and shelters a café, playroom, and gallery below. Commemorating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Puebla—when Mexicans defeated a larger, better-prepared invading French army—the competition-winning project is filled with symbolism and public space.

The competition called for Emblematic Monument entries, but Norten pushed the idea further. According to the firm’s project description, it “proposed to reinterpret the traditional concept of the monument as a public space to be used by the city and its people.” Nods to the battle are subtle. Each lamp post represents a battalion that fought, and is strategically placed at the locations of important battles. One hundred and fifty trees signify each year since the invasion. While now nearly leafless, once they grow and age, they will add additional greenery and shade to the open space. The undulations follow the ground’s natural topography and reinforce views to the city.

In the US, Norten has been busy in Miami: Curbed Miami claimed he has been designing “oodles of buildings” there.  Last year, in 2012, he designed 321 Ocean, a not-yet-completed two-building residential oceanfront development. The western building houses six three- and four-bedroom units and the eastern sixteen. Each will have at least two balconies, including a beachfront terrace, high-tech appliances, oversized showers and bathtubs. The modernist somewhat boxy design is coated in window walls, allowing for views to the ocean and city alike. Residents, paying a minimum of $1.5 million per unit, will also enjoy an infinity pool, luxury gym, library, and a courtyard garden by EnzoEnea.

Even more recently, Nortenwas chosen as the project architect for developer Asi Cymbal’s new Design District building. The 27,000-square-foot building—whose name will be determined partly by voters on Curbed Miami, with Asi getting the final decision—will house office, retail, restaurant, and parking spaces.

Other Miami projects include The Related Group’s One Ocean and a residence in Bal Harbor. In an interview with Biz Journal, Norten credited the town’s beauty for doing “half of the work” for him. He has found inspired in the work already in Miami, its history, and its changing and expanding population.

The firm’s awards include the AIA New York 2009 Institute Merit Design Award and a National AIA 2009 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design. In 1998, Norten received the prestigious Mies van der RohePavillion Award for Latin American Architecture for his Televisa mixed-use building. The firm’s work has been presented at international exhibitions, published widely in books and magazines, including three monographs.

Whether in Mexico, Miami—what Norten has called the “capital of Latin America”—or elsewhere around the globe, TEN Arquitectos is proving unstoppable, with various projects on the boards and making headlines yet again.