by Text by Rebecca Kleinman, Photography by Ken Hayden, Posted: May 9, 2007
Owning a penthouse with 4,800 square feet of outdoor living space and an extensive art collection, a shore resident knew this was a job for architect Rene Gonzalez. A Cubanbred founder of an eponymous firm, Gonzalez is known for interconnecting the indoor and outdoor rooms — the subject of his master’s thesis in architecture at U.C.L.A. — and for creating environments that don’t fight with surroundings or contents. His study in Los Angeles cumulated in working on The Getty Center with Richard Meier.
“Richard is very detail-oriented like me, and we share a common understanding of contemporary design rather than mimicking the past or being nostalgic,” he says.
Returning to Miami in the early 1990s, Gonzalez continued with museum projects such as The Wolfsonian-FIU’s renovation, Cisneros Fonstanals Art Foundation’s creation including a jungle-themed façade in Bisazza tile, and MOCA North Miami’s new lobby featuring an oak wood lattice system. Designing residences for art collectors proved a natural transition.
“Both require a high degree of design sensitivity, but you do not want a home to be cold and sterile like a museum,” he says.
For the shore beach-front condominium’s 5,000 square feet of interiors, he intertwined art work at every turn — custom building cubbyholes to display a colorful collection of Murano glass, showcasing a white ceramic and wood sculpture in the foyer and using every type of recessed lighting to illuminate pieces without being too gallery-like.
“It’s a balancing act,” he says, also choosing a neutral palette of matte white walls, light wood floors and pale furnishings. “I don’t always use white and beige, but the art called for it in this case.”
To add visual spark beyond art, Gonzalez looked to luxurious materials with movement and texture like the master bath’s Carrera marble, cherry-picked for its intense graining, and another bath’s wall of river stones that reappears for a terrace’s flooring.
“The stones denote water, which always lends a Zen quality,” he says.
Asian themes run throughout two enormous terraces. Minimalist plays on stepping stones and a waterfall lead guests outside, while Gonzalez distinguished the outdoor rooms through a meditative area with hammocks that overlooks the ocean and park, versus one for entertaining with a barbecue and kitchen facilities that face inland.
He reports working with outdoor rooms in high rises presents different challenges. Landscaping must resist wind, salt water and intensified sun, and weight distribution can be tricky regarding roof structure and conditions. “We installed lots of heavy items like a hot tub, reflecting pool and a dining table of stone that weighs a ton. Some even required a crane,” he says.
Gonzalez attributes interest in modern architecture to an international community that is wellversed in design. “We’ve come a long way. It’s more mature now,” he says.
Posted: May 9, 2007 - 10:47 AM
Text by Rebecca Kleinman, Photography by Ken Hayden