On The Edge Of The Bay

The Plot Thickens When The Miami Vice "Rock House" Architect Designs A Modernist Home On Biscayne Bay

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If you've seen Miami Vice, then you are familiar with the work of architect Max Strang. In the 2006 film, his iconic Coconut Grove "Rock House" served as Command Central for drug kingpin Arcangel de Jesus Montoya, who was played by Luis Tosar. "Director Michael Mann was driving down the street in a convertible, saw my house and said 'that's the drug lord's house,'" Strang says. "The Rock House put me on the map."

And here's the dope on another property designed by Strang … this 6,000-square-foot home in Miami Beach, Fla., which was honored with a Design for Excellence award from the American Institute of Architects, Florida Chapter in 2014. "It's definitely not drug lord material," he says. "This one is better suited to Don Johnson."

Its deep narrow site that hugs the edge of Biscayne Bay and poses definite design challenges became a point of departure for creativity. His client wanted a full-length lap pool; she wanted every room to have a water view; and, to avoid long dark hallways, Strang had to figure a way to incorporate pleasant circulation routes.

"Obviously, we couldn't place every single room facing the water," the architect says. "So, in lieu of that, we created a dual-courtyard plan to bring in natural light and a sense of space into the house, and a side entrance, which allows for a nice walk from the front door to the waterfront." His client also got her lap pool. It plunges into the heart of the house, becomes a water courtyard, and actually gives inner-facing rooms, water views.

Often inspired by ideals set forth by the Mid-Century Modern movement, Strang calls this house tropical modern. "The architecture of this house is in response to the Florida climate, with deep overhangs over south-facing windows, which also provide aesthetics," he says. The entire front of the house, extremely private without windows, cocoons the home, while wide steps provide the sense of a grand entrance and monumentality. "Along with the crisp, clean white-stucco forms, we have added some warmer materials," Strang says. "Native Florida keystone steps up to a two-story 'King Kong' entrance with a rich, ipe wood louvered door on the entry level and operable louvers above that conceal a guest bedroom window." The back of the home appears "transparent" to optimize outdoor living, with first and second-floor rooms offering pool, garden and water views. The master bedroom is cantilevered over the pool; the master bath balcony shades the dining terrace below.

Step inside the living room, where walls of glass blur the boundaries between inside and out. "We reintroduced the Florida keystone on the wall next to the stairway." Strang says. "In the first rise, the stairs are made of wood that cantilever out of the wall and we've added a glass guardrail for safety. The steps transition to stone on the upper portion."

Jutting out from the central living area, the dining room appears to float between two courtyards. Glass doors pull open to a 60-foot lap pool and a view of the bay.

Hugging the edge of Biscayne Bay, this home connects both a Modernist architectural aesthetic and a natural sense of place with the homeowner's minimalist yet warm interior design scheme. "It's a convincing look," Strang says.

Max Strang, Max Strang Architecture, Inc., Miami, FL

Robin Hill, Miami Beach, FL

Gabriel Boano, Art & Tec Development, Miami Beach, FL

Text by
Christine Davis