Machine for Florida Living

Text Hilary Lewis

Modern architecture is often associated with the embrace of industrial materials, clean lines, and simple geometric forms. Back in the 1920s when this was first gaining traction in avant-garde European circles, this new approach to architecture typically featured glass, steel and concrete. One of the great practitioners of the new style, the master architect Le Corbusier, wrote of such houses in his important tract, Towards a New Architecture, as “machines for living,” referring to both the functional way these spaces were conceived but also to their appearance as something machine-like rather than something crafted by hand. 

While this is at the heart of the history of modern architecture, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Modern architecture, especially as practiced in the post-war period in the United States, was also very much about the integration of indoors and out. The natural world here is an essential part of domestic living, both visually and through the incorporation of actual outdoor space within the design of homes. It is both of these historic directions that influence much of the contemporary architecture that we now see in Florida.

Choeff Levy Fischman, the Miami-based architecture firm known for its focus on the luxury end of tropical modern homes, recently completed a beautiful example of sleek modern design combined with a real commitment to outdoor living in Fort Lauderdale’s lovely Harbor Beach neighborhood. An area known for single family homes, luxury towers and one of the nicest beaches in the region, Harbor Beach has long been one of the most desirable spots in Fort Lauderdale.

A deep shadowbox, a mix of exposed concrete and smooth stucco, keeps the interior cool during midday sun, and when lit at night, adds visual drama.

At over 5,000 square feet of living space on an 18,000+ square foot pie-shaped lot, this waterfront home is the new residence of an NFL athlete. The firm is known for its work for one of the highest-profile athletes in the country, Alex Rodriguez, for whom Choeff Levy Fischman designed a house in Miami, which was, in fact, an inspiration for the one in Harbor Beach.

A deep shadowbox, a mix of exposed concrete and smooth stucco, keeps the interior cool during midday Deep overhangs create outdoor space safe from the elements. Cool marble sheathes a tall plane that separates entertaining spaces from family bedrooms, while a wall of ipe wood repeats the warmth of the home’s main entry.

The entire composition is contained within a single story and features a design that works best in a place like Florida, California or a similar environment where one can count on comfortable weather most of the year. According to the architects, this house is a “pod-concept,” which allows for access into each section of the house from the outdoors as well via interior connections. You are never far from reaching the beautiful grounds.

Paul Fischman, principal, Choeff Levy Fischman, describes the color scheme and design: “Though monochromatic, the home is on the water so we blended tropical notes from the outside into the interiors.” Using a combination of gray, white and wood tones, the architects have created a calm, modern backdrop for the house that helps to highlight the beautiful greenery outdoors and is reminiscent of modernism found today in Palm Springs, Brazil and Miami. The mix of pure geometric forms and lush landscaping is a winning combination in all of these environments.

The designers employed ipe wood from South America and white oak wood flooring. In the bathrooms exotic stone mixes with exposed concrete and stucco walls. The kitchen includes matte gray acrylic cabinets, quartz countertops and a quartz backsplash. The master bedroom highlights an exposed architectural concrete wall. There is a complement of both cool, industrial-style materials and warmer surfaces.

A minimalist’s dream, the kitchen features custom, handle-free cabinetry, breakfast bar/work island and Miele appliances.

While sizable, the home is not overly large, considering there are luxury homes these days of over 10,000 square feet. But is it really necessary to have that much square footage? This home easily accommodates five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms and even a theater. Outdoors features a pool with a summer kitchen, shower and 220 feet of deep dockage. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors, large windows and an open plan make for a very spacious feel. Plenty of space, light and views abound.

The master bedroom suite mixes a raw concrete headboard wall with floor-to-ceiling glass looking out at the property’s lush vegetation.

Along with the luxury of space, the architects paid close attention to environmental factors. The house incorporates onsite stormwater management, which reduces sewer use and any toxic runoff into the bay. Addressing the potential sea-level rise, the designers raised the house one foot higher than code requirements, which works well with the heightened dock and seawall. The low emissivity glazing minimizes solar heat gain and a high-albedo roofing system and spray insulation minimizes the transfer of heat. Fortunately, architecture has the ability to bring together fine aesthetics and green technology. “Machines for living” today are not just functional and visually striking; they are environmentally sensitive, which should make us all live a bit better.