In conversation with Miami based Architect, Rene Gonzalez.
Alchemist 5th Floor
Rene was the chosen the architect for the uber Miami concept store, Alchemist, a space that I wanted to share with you today. Rene was most kind in inviting me the following day to take a guided tour of this incredible structure. The very high end fashion store (think Colette, Corso Como, Bluebird) is set on the ground and 5th floor (the car park is sandwiched between the 1st and 4th floors) of this Herzog & de Meuron designed space.
Alchemist Ground Floor Entrance
I recently caught up with Rene, and asked him a few questions on the design of Alchemist, his inspiration, & social responsibility.
If I can start of by asking what or who has been your biggest influence throughout your successful career?
I am always interested in architects who think about space in daring ways and am inspired by those who approach tactile qualities in their work. Two favourites are John Lautner and Carlo Scarpa.
I’m a huge fan of Hans J Wegner, do you have a favourite furniture designer?
No, I appreciate the work of a number of designers. I am most drawn to pieces that explore materials and form in unexpected and poetic ways.
Ground Floor Space
Can you share what your studio is currently working on at the moment?
We always have a number of various projects going on as we don’t specialise in a particular building type. Currently, we are working on a range including a 20-story tower, a community centre and private residences in Miami, Michigan and New York.
Do you find museum and gallery spaces easier to work on than residential projects?
No, every project has its own set of parameters. It is our job to work within those parameters to create something really special. We are interested in ideas and in essence, making constructed ideas.
Do you have a favourite project? Or is it a case of every time you hit completion, that has to be it?!
No. By choice, our projects have been quite varied and for that reason, each has its own meaning and reasons that it is special to us.
You kindly gave walked me through your project The Alchemist at 1109 Lincoln Road in Miami. This is an incredible space, how was this collaboration conceived with the owners Roma & Erika Cohen?
Did you collaborate with Herzog & de Meuron at any point, or did your work start once the structure was complete?
Thanks very much. No, it was not a collaborative project. Our work on both Alchemist boutiques happened after the structure was complete and each responds to the site in a very specific way.
The fifth-floor level space is about its relationship to the sky and the blurring of interior and exterior.
The ground-level store was instead intended to be a cocoon-like space, enveloping patrons with color, texture and light, and protecting them from the motion of Lincoln Road.
I’ve been reading how the new residential developments in Miami are set to re-shape the cities skyline. This new generation of contemporary architecture looks exciting. Do you have a particular building you’re looking forward to seeing completed?
No, I am just excited about the development here in general and in turn, the developing interest here in the work of contemporary architects.
How do you consider your social responsibility as a practice when undertaking new projects?
My primary objective is to respond to each site in an unexpected way and to create buildings that engage in a ‘design conversation’ with their surroundings.
Miami has always been famed for it’s architecture. I was excited to visit some of the Art Deco buildings when I last visited. Do you have a favourite space in Miami?
I am actually most drawn to the qualities of the natural landscape here and in particular, Biscayne Bay.
My last question to you, if home wasn’t Miami, where could you see yourself living?
New York City. (me too…)
Rene founded his practice (RGA) in 1997 in Miami, Florida. Detail-orientated and contemporary, the award winning practice specialises in hospitality, commercial, retail and residential projects. RGA have been awarded multiple praises of excellence and continue to shift our perceptions of design, by opening a dialogue with the spaces in which we inhabit today.
With special thanks to the RGA team & Alchemist owners Roma & Erika Cohen.
Image copyright: Michael Stavaridis