Stewart Avenue is a Miami stilt house

Miami stilt house offers modern living while mitigating flood risk

Stewart Avenue Residence by Brillhart Architecture offers a model for a Miami home that combines sleek contemporary architecture, traditional local vernacular, and design that responds to the site’s flood risk.

The idea of ​​living in Miami evokes the beaches, the sun and the avant-garde architecture; but climate change and rising sea levels are another aspect of life in this Floridian urban hub, of which its inhabitants are increasingly aware. It was thoughts on this side of Miami life that brought the client of this new home, a local surgeon, to the local studio Brillhart Architecture, run by Melissa and Jacob Brillhart. And a new stilt house, Stewart Avenue Residence, was born.

‘After [our client] weathered Hurricane Irma in 2017, he knew it was time to build something new,” the architects recall. “His original 1923 home – located on a canal just 900 feet from Biscayne Bay in a desirable South Coconut Grove neighborhood – had suffered extensive damage from hurricanes and tropical storms, starting with Wilma in 2005. , just a few months after buying the house. Each time it took months to get back to normal, straighten out the insurance and complete the repairs. After several rounds of repairs and patching, he turned to the team at Brillhart Architecture to build a brand new Miami home on the same site.

Photography: Michael Stavaridis

Located in Miami’s most extreme flood zone, the new structure had to be raised on stilts, negotiating orientation and openings so that all volume could respond intelligently to anything – hurricanes, storm surges, floods. and sea level rise. However, while most day-to-day living spaces were naturally placed on the two upper levels (one containing a large open-plan living area with a separate family room and guest suite, and the latter housing the house’s three main bedrooms), the architects felt it was equally important “to embrace the understory space as a fundamental and celebrated aspect of architecture”.

As a result, the visitor is greeted on the ground floor by a dramatic experience of sculptural concrete and a play of light and shadow that combines architecture and nature – the latter, in the form of the site and the rich, leafy vegetation. surrounding area and overall terrain. Indeed, working with the existing natural elements on the site played a crucial role in the development of the design. For example, the historic coral rock wall preserved around the property is adopted by the new design as a form of barrier that encloses and protects the house and delineates its boundaries. Meanwhile, the tactility and calming presence of nearby plants, rocks and water has inspired and continues to enrich the architectural environment.

Photography: Stuart Brillhart

At the same time, the architects drew on the area’s historical precedents and regional vernaculars of flood-prone regions of the world, exploring the typology of a “house on stilts” so that they could adapt elements into their design.

This mixture of nature and architecture, old and new, born of the need to protect and shelter, has not gone unnoticed in the local community. “It’s unlike anything else in Miami, and the details, materials, and design thinking are at PAMM museum level. Now that it’s finished, I have someone knocking on my door at least once or twice a week asking if I would consider selling. I even saw people who came to see other houses in the neighborhood stop and say that they wanted to buy my house instead, ”says the client. §

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