Rene Gonzalez, a masterful architect based in Miami, recently published his first monograph, Not Lost in Translation. The book covers fourteen of his most significant completed projects. Two inserts explore some of Rene’s inspirations from Miami, with old photographs taken by the architect alongside essays by that great chronicler of architecture in Miami, Beth Dunlop. One is about Stiltsville, the community on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Bay, and the other explores Little Havana.
The book gives a deep look into these fourteen projects, with luscious pictures and informative process drawings. Rene takes the time to explain and illustrate the intentions and processes that led to the creation of each project, and the inspirations that directed the designs. Also designed as an aesthetic object in itself, when closed it has the appearance of a solid metal slab, which is a nice little reference to his fascination with materials.
One example of the exploration of materiality in Rene’s work is the GLASS condominium tower in South Beach. GLASS explores texture and transparency of glass and the building’s connection with the sky, by fritting and patterning the material. By playing with the qualities of glass, the tower dematerializes as it rises.
The store in the sky, one in a series of boutiques Rene designed for the local Alchemist brand, and the Icon South Beach condo look very different but are both designed around the ever-present Miami sky. Alchemist has pivoting mirrors that bring the sky into the space and make it a beacon of light into the night. Meanwhile, the condo has broad metallic louvers that slice through the unit like the keel or masts of a ship. It was inspired by the client’s sailing yacht. Another Alchemist store, this one a luxury jewelry boutique, uses materials and forced perspective to bring the shopper on a journey to the earth’s core, where they might find the gems they seek.
The Prairie Residence is elevated on stilts, its mass broken up into separate pavilions on floating plans inspired by local precedents like mangrove forests and Stiltsville. This make it more resilient to hurricanes and other natural forces.
His projects are designed to fearlessly face sea level rise and climate change. It’s a necessary and practical precaution, but he also wants his work to embrace the rising tides in a beautiful way when the waves do start lapping at their feet.
On the rarified island of Indian Creek, a gigantic mansion facing Biscayne Bay has great sequences of indoor and outdoor spaces that always lead toward the water. The client had asked Rene to build a spec home for billionaires, which gave him plenty of funds and square footage to use traditional passive ways to mitigate heat and light through architecture on a grand scale, like louvered screens also known as ‘persianas’ (a word you can tell Rene relishes when he’s up on a stage presenting his projects), courtyards, and breezeways.