Miami is a true fusion of architectural styles. It’s home to Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean-style villas, luxe mansions for the East Coast’s uber-rich, as well as high modern homes adapted for the sunny, sometimes sweltering, environment. In fact, an entire offshoot of Modernist architecture originates in Miami; MiMo is defined by the addition of extravagance and glamour to otherwise restrained and minimalist Modern builds—very Miami indeed. Here are the architects who are pushing the envelope and defining and re-defining the Miami residential scene.
10. Fernandez Architecture
Featured Architects: Joaquín Fernández
Address: 25 SE 2nd Ave #712 Miami FL 33131
Barcelona native, and AIA and LEED-certified architect, Joaquin Fernandez began his career in Barcelona in 2003, an auspicious city for a budding designer. He was La Llotja, Barcelona art’s university, and was also involved with the Court of Barcelona as an expert architect doing construction and violation reports. His most important court experience is the locally well-publicized case in Reus, Catalonia, where the most important developer in the area was cited for possible violation against a nearby old construction town. He set up the Miami-based Fernandez Architecture firm in May 2017, with NCARB Certification. He currently offers design services in large-scale residential and mixed-use as well as small-case residential and commercial in both Florida and Barcelona. The firm’s Floridian work is trademarked by his geometric style: open spaces, sharp corners, flat roofs, and numerous rectangular frames and windows.
Fernandez Architecture designed a private Fort Lauderdale home in the sophisticated minimalist aesthetic, with mixed shades of brown and grey, characteristic of Fernandez’s work. In designing this home, the firm took into account sustainability, environmental conditions, and entertainment potential. A water installation marks the back of the property, which features concrete finishings and wood.
Address: 18200 NE 19th Ave. North Miami Beach 33162. Suite 101
Sdh is led by Principal and Lead Designer Stephanie Halfen, who moved to Miami from Venezuela in 2009. She took on her first commissioned project before she’d even graduated college. Today, she leads her team in “creating spaces that inspire.” Sdh, as it boasts on its website, is all about individuality. Sdh works to turn clients’ dreams into reality, and has won five Houzz awards doing it. The firm was awarded Best of Houzz from 2015 through 2017 for design, and in 2015 and 2016 for service. The firm’s work has been featured in a myriad of publications, including Florida Design and Florida Design’s Miami Home & Decor.
Featured in Florida Design’s Miami Home & Decor, sdh designed and built a 5,800-square-foot home to replace a smaller one in Golden Beach. Golden Beach architecture was once overwhelmingly Mediterranean style. Today, with the addition of structures like this one, the area’s architectural identity is slowly becoming more modern. The six-bedroom house—four upstairs, two downstairs—combines traditional with modern. The aim of the design was to utilize every inch of space.
Featured in Miami’s Luxe Interiors + Design magazine is a second Golden Beach property of sdh’s design. An interesting tidbit: the home belongs to a childhood friend of Halfen’s. Characterized by stucco and slate, the design is meant to integrate the indoors and outdoors; it overlooks a canal, after all. Halfen told Luxe that she paid great attention to the way light was coming into the home. For Halfen, natural light is a crucial element in all of her designs.
8. Debowsky Design Group
Featured Architects: Stuart Debowsky, Eric Swakon, Marina Dias, Marina Dias,
Address: 4384 SW 13th Street Miami FL 33134
Stuart Debowsky founded the sustainability-minded Debowsky Design Group in 2009, with the goal of creating environmentally sensible structures in the Floridian environment. Mr. Debowsky, who is LEED-accredited and NCARB-certified, studied architecture at the University of Miami, and construction management at Florida International University. The Debowsky Design Group team consists of a handful of players, including Eric Swakon, Director of Architecture, Marina Dias, Director of Design, Chris Sahs, Director of Client Delivery, and Annie Goldman, Interior Design Associate.
Though the Debowsky Design Group does start projects from scratch, the group also adds finishing touches to homes. They’ll add a pavilion with a full outdoor kitchen for entertaining, or design an outdoor landscape with a pool, fountain, living area, dining area. At one home in the Village of Pinecrest, FL, the firm turned a backyard into an outdoor entertainment space. The firm gave similar treatment to a home in Coral Gables, transforming the backyard into a space suitable for entertaining guests.
7. Robert M. Swedroe Architects & Planners
Featured Architects: Robert M. Swedroe
Address: 12000 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 200 Miami FL 33181
Since its founding in 1974, Robert M. Swedroe Architects & Planners has been designing multi-family residences. Boasting a 12-year stint as senior design architect for Morris Lapidus, founder Robert Swedroe has been practicing architecture in Miami since 1960, giving him over five decades of priceless experience. His residential designs have been featured in The Washington Post, Robb Report Home & Style, and Haute Living, and the firm has partnered with major players The Trump Group and Coscan.
If Swedroe is known for any one thing, it’s being an innovator. Way back in 1988, his firm designed Bal Harbour Tower, which today is Florida’s first major direct-entry elevator building. The idea of a private entry elevator was, at the time, new to those building condominiums in South Florida. Tower residences also featured the then-novel “through view” phenomenon. Residents could view both sunrise and sunset from their apartments. In this way, the architect took full advantage of Bal Habour’s beachside views.
Swedroe also designed the Trump Hollywood building on Hollywood Beach. The tower stands 41 stories tall, and is made of glass—a feature that stands out against its beachfront-neighborhood backdrop. The Gold Coast building includes 200 residences with private elevator access.
6. KZ Architecture
Featured Architects: Jaya Kadar, AIA LEED AP
Address: 3470 E Coast Ave H201 Miami FL 33137
Founder of KZ Architecture, Jaya Kadar, AIA LEED AP, designs with a focus on sustainability. Kadar studied architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and, before that, at Brandeis University. The Costa Rica native worked with architects Robert A.M. Stern, Moshe Safdie, and Graham Gund before starting a firm of her own. In collaboration with Stern, Safdie, and Gund, Kadar helped to create public libraries, municipal centers, religious institutions, and luxury resorts. In 2015 alone, Kadar made Ocean Magazine’s list of Top 50 Coastal Architects, was honored as an AIA Miami People’s Choice Awards Finalist, and awarded the Best of Houzz Badges for Design and Service.
Kadar’s firm built Woodcrest, a 4,910-square-foot single-family residence on a 10,446-square-foot plot in Key Biscayne. The geometric structure, completed in 2015, highlights the line: large rectangular panels, nearly the height of the house itself, hang vertically. The silver-toned panels are patterned; interlaced lines create a busy network of bars that looks like a piece of abstract art.
Another single-family home of Kadar’s design in Bay Harbor Islands highlights the square. The front of the house features 12 small square-shaped decorative cut-outs. Windows are rectangular, but many are broken up into square panes. The 5,500-square-foot residence, built on a 16,320-square-foot piece of land, also showcases neutral tones—lots of brown wood, smooth beige paint, and gray accents.
5. Eilert Lewis Architects Studio (formerly Sebastian Eilert Architecture)
Featured Architects: Sebastian Eilert, Daniel Lewis
Address: 13063 S.W. 133 Court, Miami, FL 33186
Eilert Lewis Architects Studio, formerly Sebastian Eilert Architecture, has a holistic approach that includes a focus on sustainability, and the firm takes on renovation and addition projects, as well as commercial and hospitality work. Sebastian Eilert, a LEED-accredited architect, interior designer, and building inspector in Florida, grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and came to the United States in 1996, where he studied architecture and business law at the University of Miami. He has been a practicing Miami architect since 1998. He has garnered such awards as the AIA Miami award for Historic Preservation in 2005, and the 2011 and 2009 Sustainable Design Architect of the Year. In 2010, he is joined by Daniel Lewis, who graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Architecture, with the common passion for new and emerging technologies and sustainability.
In addition to the 2014 renovation of a two-story Miami Beach home, the firm added an in-law suite that connects to the main house. The waterfront property is stunning, and Mr. Eilert’s design updated the bedrooms and bathroom, and created a guest suite so that the home would meet its residents’ current needs.
In March 2015, Mr. Eilert completed the Sfez residence, named GaiaMa, in Biscayne Park. The single-story 1,500-square-foot home is LEED PLatinum, boasting a HERS rating of -4. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with the potential to create a third bedroom with the simple additions of a wall and door. Residents never have to worry about the weather affecting indoor temperatures: the house is made of ICD walls, and the roof features an insul-deck system.
Featured Architects: Gustavo Berenblum and Claudia Busch
Address: 2200 NW 2nd Ave Suite 203 Miami FL 33127
Gustavo Berenblum and Claudia Busch founded BBA. This Miami firm designs and plans education, residential, cultural, and hospitality projects. Berenblum is a nationally recognized architect who has been in the industry for over two decades and received the South Florida Business Journal Community Excellence in Architecture Award. He has collaborated with such well-known architectural firms as Zaha Hadid Architects and Herzog & de Meuron. Busch has received an AIA honorable mention and a BDA Prize in Germany. She has also collaborated with architectural powerhouse Zaha Hadid.
BBA designed SoFi house, a project which includes three 2,600-square-foot homes and one 2,450-square-foot townhouse. The design incorporates a relic from the 1920s–a bungalow that has been historically preserved. Each residence has its own rooftop garden and terrace with a pool.
In 2016, BBA took on a $7 million project on Hibiscus Island. The two-story 7,100-square-foot home has its own lobby. The 26-foot space includes an atrium and takes in natural light via both skylights and traditional windows. The design also incorporates sustainability and energy efficiency, because of the firm’s belief that energy efficiency and high-end architectural design now go hand-in-hand.
3. Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design
Featured Architects: Ralph Choeff, Raphael Levy, and Paul Fischman
Address: 8425 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 201 Miami FL 33138
The firm of Ralph Choeff, Raphael Levy, and Paul Fischman was shortlisted in residential architecture for the 2017 American Architecture Prize. The group has designed not only single-family residences, residential high-rise buildings, and multi-family developments, but also commercial buildings. In its designs, the medium-sized firm channels the Tropical Modern style of architecture, which lives in harmony with the surrounding Floridian environment.
Cheoff Levy Fischman is the firm behind New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez’s house in Coral Gables. The 11,000 square-foot home, built on a one-and-a-half acre parcel of land, is designed in the style of Midcentury Modern. Rodriguez told Architectural Digest, which published a feature story on the home, that he wanted a peaceful place where he could relax with his daughters.
The firm also bought a touch of Tropical Modernism to Miami Beach through Casa Ishia, a two-story waterfront residence on Hibiscus Island. A thin line separates the home’s interior from its exterior. The home’s interior features Ipe wood and South American Stone. Outside, the firm used water to integrate the structure with its environment: a reflecting pond marks the front entrance; an infinity-edged pool overlooks the bay in the back.
2. Brillhart Architecture
Featured Architects: Jacob Brillhart
Address: 168 SE 1st Street, Suite 704 Miami FL 33131
Artist and University of Miami professor Jacob Brillhart is the driving force behind Brillhart’s success across multiple disciplines; Brillhart has garnered international acclaim for its residential, commercial, design-build, artistic, and theoretical research endeavors. Mr. Brillhart completed a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University and was a 2006 and 2007 Gabriel Prize finalist, as well as a 2010 Rome Prize in Architecture finalist. Known for work that showcases a deep connection to surrounding landscapes, the firm has been featured multiple times in ArchDaily, Architectural Digest, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and is a local and international AIA award winner. In 2015, Brillhart was selected as one of five finalists for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program.
Miami Beach Residential Tower combines two levels of retail, including a restaurant, with its residential floors. The building’s distinctive large windows stand in place of balconies. The divide between retail and residential is marked by the wood-wrapped exterior of the structure’s second floor — a unique way to make a visible distinction between sections of a mixed-use building. The project is still in the design stage.
Under construction is the Bonita Residence, a 3,800 square-foot modernistic house in Coconut Grove. The steel-and-glass structure is raised, existing two feet off the ground, supported by three elevated stem walls—a design that could easily present challenges in construction. The home is protected from sunlight by 15-foot front and back roof overhangs.
1. Strang Design
Featured Architects: Max Strang and Jason Adams
Address: 3326 Mary St. 3rd Floor Miami FL 33133
With two offices in Florida, one in Colorado, and a fourth on its way to Sarasota, the Miami-based architecture firm STRANG is creating modern designs for clients all over the country. Headed by founder Max Strang and Principal and Vice President Jason Adams, the firm has designed single-family residences, condominiums, boutique hotels, and mixed-use residential communities. Recipients of numerous AIA awards—nine in 2016 alone—Max Strang was the two-time winner of AIA’s Young Architect of the Year and his firm won AIA Miami Firm of the Year in 2010.
“The concepts of the Sarasota School of Architecture remain the greatest influence upon me and my firm. Our work strives to incorporate the lessons of that essential modern movement and adapt them to a changed world. Site-driven and climate-driven design responses have fueled our firm’s success. I am committed to the idea that the architectural identity of a home should be related to its relationship to its location and environment.” – Max Strang
STRANG Architecture’s most well-known piece of work, the Rock House, elevated the firm to the status of bona-fide Miami architectural player. You might recognize the Coconut Grove residence from its role in the film adaptation of tbe television series Miami Vice. It also earned the firm an AIA Miami Design Award in 2004, an AIA Florida Merit Award of Excellence in 2005, and a slew of national media coverage throughout the early 2000s.
STRANG has created a full spectrum of designs in the Floridian landscape, but perhaps one of the most innovative is the Tuckman Residence. The design features vertical “fins” for privacy—and shade—and its decks, which span the width of the structure, are notably long. The Fort Lauderdale residence, completed in 2017, earned STRANG an AIA Florida Honor Award in 2016.
Finding the right residential architect
We’ve spent countless hours, building a curated network of Miami’s best residential architects. Contact us to set-up a free consultation to discuss which is right for you.