If you're feeling the chill of winter, a dip into Four Florida Moderns (W.W. Norton, $50) might help. This new book, coming out in February, showcases the work of four currently practicing Florida modernists: Alberto Alfonso, AIA, René González, AIA, Chad Oppenheim, AIA, and Guy Peterson, FAIA. This impressive gathering is amply supplemented by a series of essays from some of the country's biggest names in design, as well as extensive architect Q&A's conducted by the book's author, Saxon Henry.
The book opens with a brief summary of modern architecture's storied history under the Florida sun, written by Washington University professor Robert McCarter. It then segues into the section on Alberto Alfonso and an essay by one of his mentors, the late Charles Gwathmey. Among the Cuban-born architect's portfolio of sleek commercial and institutional projects are a couple of handsome houses and a mixed-use condominium project.
Next up is René González, another Cuban native who grew up in South Florida. His former teacher and employer Richard Meier, FAIA, contributed the accompanying analysis of his lush, sensitive work, which incorporates a mix of institutional and residential buildings. "Consistent in Gonzalez's work are flexible thresholds, which designate both garden and building as spaces for living," Meier writes. "Interior spaces connect with, and at times dissolve into, the verdant lawns, bamboo, weeping ficus, and palm trees that are the timeless features of the region."
Terence Riley, AIA, former director of the Miami Art Museum, examines Chad Oppenheim's bold, glamorous designs. In them, he writes, "the surfaces of architecture have begun to assume the importance once associated with architecture's forms." This keen interest in façade textures and treatments is evident throughout the project images that follow, from Oppenheim's own home in Miami Beach to his larger multifamily and hospitality projects.
Guy Peterson's rigorous, minimalist houses and institutional buildings receive praise from Warren R. Schwartz, FAIA, of Schwartz/Silver Architects in Boston, who posits that the work aptly continues the legacy of the Sarasota School. "I like to create a space and then take things away from it so that I'm left with just the pure form," Peterson says in the Q&A section. (Read the residential architect profile of Peterson's firm.)
While linked by a modern thread, the stylistic tendencies of these four architects vary widely. But in their interviews with the author, each one touches on the importance of taking the time to fully understand the essence of a project before formally starting to design. "It's an exploratory process, almost like archaeology," Oppenheim muses about the pre-design phase. "We are uncovering the project from the earth and piecing together clues until eventually we put something together that works."