The Miami Row House is an exploratory project here at Building Center No.3. Our design team has looked at the housing market on the edges of the urban core where there are still large pockets of single family homes. The question we asked was: What would a Miami Row House look like? Design Team: Alejandra Saul (Project Leader + Interior Designer), AnaCláudia Magalhães (Lead Landscape Designer), Daniela Romero (Landscape Designer).
As urbanists we are looking for strategies to densify the surrounding the neighborhoods that border the Downtown Miami district without introducing oversized high-rise buildings now prevalent along the city’s waterfront. In our assessment the key is to provide residents, who frequently entertain themselves in Downtown but prefer the openness of suburbia, with a viable alternative to the traditional single family home.
The Single Family Home
A key feature of the single family home is the open space: locals enjoy their front yard and their backyards. These are outdoor spaces that often have pools, BBQ grilling and seating for intimate gatherings. The front yard acts as buffer from the street; a way to maintain privacy with distance and in many cases the front lawn is a statement of social status. If these are some of key attributes of the single family home then any alternative needs to provide thoughtful solutions to replacing these amenities.
Typical Row Houses
Many of the major cities in the US have a row house typology: New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston; to name a few of the largest. Some of the common features in these cities are that the row houses are multi-story, multi-family (in some cases), have a shared party wall, an elevated first floor, no garage, scarcity of natural light and very little green space. These are features that are not appealing to the Miami single family home resident -any solution here would need to address the automobile and open space.
Miami “Row House”
Our design team focused on three key areas for a Miami prototype: natural light, outdoor space and an automobile solution. The first task was to develop the optimal size of a plot: 48 feet wide by 40 feet deep. In practice we have simply compressed the typical single family plot size of 55 ft x 120 ft so that the front yard and the backyard spaces are distributed differently. We also dispensed with the idea of a shared party wall -we wanted to use the sides of the structure for windows and natural light. Lastly, we created a garage for tandem parking and placed a green roof atop for an elevated outdoor amenity.
In lieu of the front lawn and backyard, the Miami Row House (MRH) redistributes those spaces in three dimensions. The front lawn shift and becomes a side court that can then be accessed from the dining room, kitchen and living room and serves as outdoor foyer for the home. Atop the garage is a terraced outdoor space that is accessed by a bridge over the living room connecting the stairs to the elevated deck. Each floor has one balcony and each balcony has a deep overhang for shade. On the roof there is a covered outdoor deck -taken together there is over 11 square feet of outdoor space.
By eschewing the conventional party wall the MRH creates a surface to allow for windows on the sides to bring natural light deeper into the interior spaces. In addition the MRH pulls out toward the street by four feet away from the rear wall to allow the skylight at the roof to pour natural light down the back wall, through the perforated bridge and into the living room space.
The front facade was designed to have deep overhangs at the balconies. This allows the glazing at the bedrooms to be floor to ceiling but remain in shade -thus reducing solar heat gain significantly. As is customary in all BC3 projects the plant material selected is either Florida native or Florida friendly thereby reducing the water consumption associated with irrigation. Internally, the plumbing fixtures and appliances comply the EPA’s Water Sense and Energy Star standards, respectively. The design team also reviewed SIP panels for the building envelope but found the technology too cost prohibitive. SIPs would have improved the structure’s operating phase performance but the high initial costs were prohibitive.
The Miami Row House offers the suburban dweller an opportunity to move closer to the urban core without sacrificing the key elements of single family home living: Natural light, green space, and a garage for the automobile. This type of design solution is best suited as a multiple units on a street serving as a liner for a larger 8-12 story building. This will allow the row house to conceal the three stories of parking that is typical for mid-rise buildings.