Stewart Avenue Residence / Brillhart Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. Located in Miami’s most extreme food zone, this waterfront project from Brillhart Architecture offers a new design aesthetic for elevated coastal architecture. The Stewart Avenue residence not only addresses environmental challenges from the point of view of adaptation and resilience, but also incorporates inventive architectural devices that provide conceptual material-based strategies – elevating the Miami waterfront landscape.
After Brad Herman went through Hurricane Irma in 2017, he knew it was time to build something new. His original 1923 home—located on a canal just 900 feet from Biscayne Bay in a desirable South Coconut Grove neighborhood—had sustained significant damage from hurricanes and tropical storms, beginning with Wilma in 2005, just months after he left the house. had bought. Each time, it took months to get back to normal, get the insurance in order, and complete the repairs.
Since FEMA’s flood insurance policy limits the payout to $250,000 in construction coverage (a relatively small amount to repair significant structural damage to a home); it became a patchwork issue over time and simply not worth it anymore. Herman, now a leading surgeon in the city, sought out the architectural firm Brillhart Architecture to build a new home on the same spot.
Located in Miami’s Most Extreme Flood Zone (VE) – where projects must have their first floor on stilts 12′ above sea level (a whole story) – this project is specifically designed to respond to hurricanes and storm surges, flooding and sea-level rise . With the Stewart Avenue Residence, Brillhart Architecture sought to fundamentally rethink how to increase/improve the architectural design of elevated residential structures by 1) embracing the understory space as a fundamental and celebrated aspect of architecture; 2) reconstructing a new ground plane in the sky and 3) breaking up the mass to make the building less imposing and more tropical.
As a result, people have taken notice of the project since it got off the ground. “It just doesn’t look like anything else in Miami, and the details, materials and thoughtfulness of the design are on the level of the PAMM museum. Now that it’s done, I have someone knock on my door at least once or twice a week to ask if I’d consider selling. I’ve even had people come and look at other houses in the area and say they want to buy my house instead.” says Hermans.
While elevated structures are not new (think US coastal communities with houses on telephone poles), the “house on stilts” design strategy is becoming a prerequisite for waterfront building as we face the escalating realities of climate change. The typical construction essentially picks up a house that looks like it belongs on the ground and drops it atop a series of columns, disregarding any ground-floor design or the habitable space above.