STEWART AVENUE RESIDENCE
SIZE: 4500 sf (UNDER AC)
Located on a canal in South Coconut Grove, just 900′ from Bisycane Bay, this site is in Miami’s most extreme flood zone (VE) and therefore had to be designed specially to respond to issues of hurricanes, storm surges, flooding and sea level rise. Projects located in Zone VE must have their first floor – as well as all mechanical equipment –raised 12’ above sea level – requiring houses to be raised on stilts by an entire story.
In this project, Brillhart Architecture sought ways to improve the aesthetic nature and experiential qualities of an elevated residential structure by 1) embracing the understory space as a fundamental and celebrated aspect of the architecture; 2) reconstituting a new groundplane 12 feet in the sky and 3) breaking up the massing so as to make the building seem less imposing and feel more tropical.
The Understory Space: was not just “protective” or ancillary/unused space, but was understood to be the first point of arrival and the initial impression and experience.
A preserved historic coral rockwall that surrounds the property serves as an initial architectural solution. It lends a necessary sense of enclosure between the street and the house and creates a connection at the ground level upon approach.
Sculptural forms — specifically three curvalinear concrete storage rooms and a curved garage enclosure on the ground floor – were designed to withstand flooding, but have porous openings that allow water to escape. They not only organically root the project to the ground but also transition the eye up to the first floor. The curved cut-out adjacent the stairwell is also organic in nature and allows one to orient themselves as they ascend to the first floor. These forms mimic those in nature and serve as a juxtaposition to the more rectilinear architecture above.
Slender galvanized steel pipe columns or “stilts,” set at varying angles, provide additional structural support. The irregularity and slenderness of the columns reference nature and make the building feel as if it is resting lightly on the land.
Beautiful, natural materials and detailing elevate the tactile quality of the space. The walls are made of board-formed concrete – creating texture and material presence. Inset internally within the understory space is a steel staircase with perforated treads and stainless steel mesh that leads you upstairs to the second point of arrival. The ceiling is a combination of exposed tongue and groove cypress and ipe decking. Pockets of river rock punctuate the poured concrete floors.
Meaningful programmatic spaces include a covered soccer area and ample storage spaces integrated within the curvalinear forms.
Salt tolerant, resilient plantings, which are tall and dense in areas and more low lying in others, also reduce the sense of transparency below.