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Tropical Modern is not an established style, but rather an architectural and design movement that began in the late ‘50s in tropical places as diverse in culture and nature as Africa, Asia, Brazil, the West Indies and Caribbean, and South Florida. Its unique combination of traditional tropical and European modern styles – popularized by internationally-known architects such as Oscar Niemeyer, Gio Ponti, Goffrey Bawa and Isay Weinfeld – breathed warmth into the somewhat chilly modernism.
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Sustainable architecture was a necessity for architects in the tropics in the ‘50s – they couldn’t rely on air conditioning for climate control, and it was expensive and difficult to ship materials. Today’s eco-friendly architects and designers appreciate the solutions offered by Tropical Modern, such as correct positioning of buildings to capture the right amount of light; cleverly angled roofs to afford shade; walls of glass for natural light; breezeways; expansive open floor plans and ventilation to reduce temperature and humidity; indoor/outdoor design; and use of indigenous materials. The recently built (2014) Perez Art Museum Miami is a striking, critically-acclaimed example of contemporary tropical modern with its tropical vernacular, clean lines, roof-shaded plazas, generous windows, living plant-covered columns, and stilts.
Choeff Levy Fischman is an award-winning, Miami-based architecture and design firm specializing in high-end custom residential homes, multi-family developments, hotels and commercial buildings. Choeff Levy Fischman are experts in the field of Modern and Tropical Modern architecture, the use of indoor-outdoor living design and environmental architecture which focuses on the melding of the elements that surround an individual site. The firm has designed the South Florida residences of several celebrities and international business leaders and has won design awards for both residential and commercial design from hospitality and design magazines, the South Florida Builders Association and the Southeast Builders Association. The firm and its projects have appeared in international and national publications and in television programs like X-Factor, various TV commercials and in music videos.
“Tropical Modern is very much in demand in South Florida and is conducive to where we are. The style respects the environment in which it exists – in this case the tropics, which is a hallmark of all good architecture.” – Ralph Choeff
Choeff, whose firm is widely considered the leader in Tropical Modern architecture in Miami, says that many of his clients specifically ask for Tropical Modern, drawn not only to its aesthetics but also to its principles. The former home of baseball star Alex Rodriguez’s at 4358 North Bay Road in Miami Beach is a good example of both. The entire rear façade of the house is comprised of glass sliding doors opening it up to stunning Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay views, bringing them into the interior of the space. A 450-square foot, double-height green-wall atrium – situated between the living room and kitchen on the first floor and the master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor – draws natural light into the deeper interior areas. The high-ceilinged living area can easily evolve into a lavish entertaining space. Lines and tones are consistent, pure, and clean; floors are beeswax-finished white oak, and art selected by the client adds warmth, color and character.
Indoor/outdoor living and large sliding glass doors are also a feature of CLF’s 73 Palm Avenue home on Palm Island. This residence emphasizes the master suite exterior areas and the way they interact with the exterior ground level areas below them. A pool has reflecting pond areas that appear to flow uninterrupted into the residence. The color theme is monochromatic but warm with natural materials such as wood and stone.
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CLF’s Bal Harbour Home at 224 Bal Bay Drive’s indoor/outdoor living theme is facilitated by an all glass rear façade and harmonic combination of stucco, natural stone and wood. This very geometric residence is a two-story, all glass space opening at bottom to the outdoors. Sliding glass doors hidden in pockets make the transition from indoors to outdoors fluid and indistinguishable when open. Overall, CLF has recently designed over a dozen Tropical Modern homes on Di Lido Island on Miami Beach, alone.