Ocean Drive is a 568-square-metre single floor condominium unit within a new residential tower overlooking the Atlantic in Miami Beach, Florida. The clients are based in Seattle and travel often, but have deep roots in the panhandle and had been looking to return home. To accommodate a family of six, this down to the slab renovation combined two smaller units to create a five–bedroom retreat on the beach.
First conversations focused on the ever–changing views from the space and the almost tactile quality of light at this latitude. The design grew out of a desire to amplify these phenomena and let the interior architecture be a canvas and a frame. To that end, a simple diagram was developed with a solid, shadowy service core surrounded by light elemental volumes.
The heart of the unit is clad in dark tropical hardwood with careful detailing emphasising mass and craft. A dropped ceiling to accommodate services supplied from the core is expressed as a heavy wood raft creating subtle compression when moving between public spaces. Walls are expressed as solid wood slabs and wide plank floors matched.
Another design opportunity grew out of the client’s extensive travel in the middle east and their interest in mathematical patterns. In lieu of a more familiar tile mosaic, a bas relief feature was proposed for the headboard separating the master bedroom from the bath. Closest to the bright eastern and western elevations, these simple bedroom volumes are treated in pale, sandy tones of hand troweled plaster reflecting natural light deep into the building core. The irregular surface of the plaster highlights the changing quality of light throughout the day and lends a softness to private spaces. Working with the craftspeople who would install it, architecture and interior firm mwworks developed a pattern and a fabrication procedure to create an abstracted surface to catch the morning light.
Perhaps the most rewarding exploration was in response to the client’s request to create an installation that might animate the entry sequence. Pursuing this led to the development of light feature that implied an opening in the exterior wall admitting natural light to the entry.
mwworks developed and mocked up various concrete block shapes and configurations to test the way the light would play both on surfaces within the entry, but also on the blocks themselves. Varied concrete mixes and interior geometry in each block lends an informality to a pattern that shifts and deforms across the assembly.
Directly opposite the elevator landing a small alcove was created to mark the entry. The ‘moyo’ wall was intended to reference vernacular masonry ventilation blocks washed with natural light from a perceived adjacent court. In an alcove off the entry hall, the LED lighting system casts shadows through a small garden that track with the movement of the sun throughout the day. At night, the adjacent powder room is illuminated with a cool simulated moonlight through the same garden.
Finally, at the gathering spaces at the east and west ends of the unit, large format concrete slab floor tiles reflect light onto plaster ceilings above and provide a cool surface underfoot. A hierarchy of assemblies is established as the structural concrete deck slips over the glass window wall before stepping down as a plaster ceiling. Concrete columns remain unfinished, providing another piece of context to the nature of the intervention and layers of the larger building assembly.
Sheer curtains catch onshore breezes and bright textiles, woven baskets and patterned floor coverings add a layer of organic authenticity. The neutral canvas includes varied shades of blue, orange and red respond to the native flora and fauna of southern Florida. At home hosting guests or children’s sandy feet, this home references the tones, textures and tropical climate of its site, while its careful craft and detailing suggests a permanence not typical of South Beach.
Graceful bent brass pulls and whistle knobs for privacy latches provide bright accents throughout, catching the light with a subtle patina revealing use over time. Switches integrated into plaster walls further reduce visual clutter. The client requested programmable low volt switching, but it is controlled via analog toggles. The client also requested concealed HVAC systems. To address this request and streamline air distribution in the core and bedrooms wall sections were employed as plenums and floor to ceiling perforated panels allow for ample air movement. In public spaces, air is supplied between the ceiling and the raft over the circulation core sublimating necessary grilles.
credits: architecture and interiors: mwworks | general contractor: Dowbuilt | local contractor: Woolems Inc Lighting Niteo | furnishings: Studio DIAA & Matt Anthony Designs | carved countertops: The Vero Stone | Plaster (walls, master headboard): Cathy Connor Studio C | interior lanscape garden: Formaneta