William H. Arthur IV
Miami, FL, USA
William H. Arthur IV Assoc. AIA
Ramon A. Kitzman (Structural Engineer)
The project owner agreed to recognize three examples from Jan Hochstim’s 2005 Rizzoli Publication titled Florida Modern. The book summarized some of Florida’s most eminent residential designs, organized by architect & region. Simultaneously, I catalogued buildings I studied in Havana, Cuba, most of which excluded the use of air-conditioning. I found that the presence of a central courtyard, along with several other key elements of shading & ventilation, common in Havana, proved that buildings of relatively small size could effectively cool themselves, independent of solar activity. By incorporating these features into the concepts of icon learned from the book; size, position, order & arrangement, I generated an exterior envelope that was unique enough to pique the owner in to building a home that was uniquely original in an ever-diversifying metropolis Miami. With his approval of the overall concept, I manipulated the primary scheme into a simple & buildable structure using sensibly-manufactured materials at low cost & labor. For the context in which the building is situated, Shorecrest, there exist several homes by Alfred Browning Parker, a local dean of modernism. This further determined some of the home's design gestures as the Parker homes, built half a century before, also drew observations from regional climate; exemplifying the use of louvers, shades & overhang.
Several months after graduation, I was very fortunate to have been asked to design my first new construction: a single-family residence. The request for the project stemmed from ideas of highlighting the principles of mid-century thinking, while using the most innovative technology & material. It was important to the owner that the building be both simple & iconic, as it would serve as both his residence & personal office. The owner, a philanthropist & real estate investor, sought a home that was exceptional in richness & also diverse in its solutions to climate change & cooling, with specific attention to its efficiency in construction, cost & performance. It was planned that the home would be enveloped on three sides by vegetation, but by requirement, the forward facade be exposed to the street & be as unique as it were remarkable. The owner wanted to represent several main principals through this elevation: The iconic & original nature of mid-century Florida vernacular, the resourcefulness of locally-manufactured material & response to climate. To achieve this goal, I examined buildings through Florida & Western Caribbean, drawing parallels between both sides of the Florida straits & Americas.
The home is predominately represented by a thin concrete canopy cantilevered fourteen feet over the forward facade. The home is two-level with sole access through an open-air courtyard at the ground, containing a stair leading to the inhabited areas above. Under the home is parking for five over impervious gravel. Ascending the entry stair, occupants switch back to view the transparent front door & panoramic window system beyond; overlooking Miami’s intracoastal waterway. The home is raised nine feet into the air to take advantage of the prevailing current & cooler temperatures, less heated by ground effect. The main space of the home serves the food preparation, living & master bedroom areas, all of which have unobstructed privilege to the water. Extending beyond the conditioned envelope of these spaces is a continuous balcony that projects ten foot towards the waterfront while the protective cantilevered canopy soars above it, creating the appearance of a proscenium from the street’s view. The forward envelope is manipulable through three large openings affording the owner ambiguity between the indoor & outdoor spaces. The aluminum railing was custom fabricated in exploration of reducing material & waste. The railing is fit into the deck & fastened only by epoxy, part of a larger effort to reduce the overall number of fasteners used on the project. The building is owner-occupied who remains very proud of his home. He seldom uses air-conditioning & enjoys the temperate condition that the building remains in throughout the day.