Innovation by Design

ArquitectonicaSTUDIO
Written by Pauline Muller

Despite its relatively young age, ArquitectonicaSTUDIO is an established, interdisciplinary voice on the Miami architecture scene that has proven to be a dynamic and capable collaborator across a host of project types and sizes, unafraid of exploring creativity and novelty. As part of Arquitectonica, the ArquitectonicaSTUDIO team specializes in boutique-style projects incorporating interior and landscape design while benefitting from being an integrated part of the greater ecosystem and community creativity of its parent company.

Headed up by an all-female leadership team working from the Miami headquarters in Coconut Grove, Arquitectonica also has 11 offices in far-flung locations like Manila in the Philippines; Málaga in southern Spain; Paris, France; three offices in Latin America; and others in New York and Palm Springs. With such a wide reach its design scope is not only sophisticated but also well-informed and in touch with the zeitgeist. At home in a modern 15,000-square-foot building, where it opened its doors in 2005, designers take the firm’s ethos of creating resilient design seriously, and it shows. As such, ArquitectonicaSTUDIO is synonymous with sustainability and innovative design.

Supported by ArquitectonicaGEO and ArquitectonicaINTERIORS, this forward-thinking team is known for seeking out challenging, out-of-the-ordinary projects often overlooked by other designers. The result is an overall reputation for lateral thinking and excellence, and these two attributes have afforded Arquitectonica an impressive selection of awards. Laurinda Spear—American architecture laureate, landscape architect, founder, and principal of ArquitectonicaGEO, ArquitectonicaINTERIORS, and ArquitectonicaSTUDIO—is as much a mentor as she is a leader. Perhaps best known for the design of Miami Beach’s Ballet Valet parking garage, lusciously decked in natural greenery on the corner of Collins and 7th, Spear’s visionary design of this repurposed legacy building features beautiful art deco design. Thanks to her, Miami has a proud, well-designed landmark that dazzles passersby with a purpose-specific selection of plants that mirror the waves beyond, offering a visual respite from the predominantly concrete-laden central business district.

Placing Spear amongst the region’s top architects, the building also served as a muse for Miami’s Perez Art Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. While genuine humility is one of Spear’s greatest attributes, she is, without a doubt, a respected pioneer for women in Miami’s architectural landscape. ArquitectonicaSTUDIO’s boutique-style projects typically focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility, demanding the gamut of dually informed architectural, interior, and landscape design. “It’s typically not the classical type of architecture project that we go after; we are exploring other types of architecture that people tend to forget about that need attention as well,” says Juliana Touma, recently appointed Director.

As a woman in architecture, Touma considers herself fortunate to work in the Miami market, where women are well-represented in the industry. “In other parts of the U.S., you don’t find as many women. I feel very equal being within the Miami market. I don’t feel the same challenges as someone would, say 30 or 40 years ago,” she says of a profession where women generally also equal men in number on South Florida’s university campuses.

Due to its diversity, the company blends creativity and expertise into a design service that welcomes the future while leaving no stone unturned in delivering human-friendly spaces that work. This expert approach has led ArquitectonicaSTUDIO to develop a penchant for unusual projects like small-scale schools, animal shelters, and other unexpected spaces equally deserving of avant-garde design.

Since the team looks for projects where few others of its caliber care to do so, its project owners benefit from designs that not only stand the test of the elements and time but that come with modernity. “There are some really creative projects that we are looking at that people don’t even realize are out there,” Touma adds.

One such project is The Port in Port Saint Lucie. Aimed at providing quality family entertainment in Westmorland Park, The Port reimagines a formerly forgotten space by bringing five individual structures together in a single footprint, offering a selection of dining options complete with a waterfront amphitheater and a riverside mangrove boardwalk leading to play areas for children and botanical gardens.

On trend as a matter of course, the team applies technology in surprising ways. One novel way it uses artificial intelligence (AI), for instance, is by generating mood boards. Another example is reimagining buildings like an original single-story historic home currently being renovated. The process started by allowing AI to render two- and three-story images of the building.

“We are using AI to see how we can keep the historical language of the one-story home and how that would transfer into the current zoning code of a three-story structure [featuring] new materials,” Touma explains. She notes that clients and the team find the approach fun and exciting. And, while architects continue to treasure their large hardcopy architectural book collections, online resources like Pinterest, Instagram, and the like are additional creativity prompts often used in the field.

Being an integral part of the greater Arquitectonica group gives ArquitectonicaSTUDIO access to a vast human cache of knowledge and expertise. The company is a certified member of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and registered with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. With sustainability driving ideas in a big way, every morning sees the team gather to pool thoughts on improving performance. That means the team is always ready to hatch new solutions to big problems, like how to reduce single-use plastics across airports.

In return, employees do more than just benefit from the opportunity to implement great ideas. Staff keen on professional development also get to travel to the company’s foreign locations to build experience and share notes with their colleagues abroad.

“We can always call on an office to help us. We have at our disposal a worldwide system of offices,” says Spear. As its global meetings are attended by professionals from 13 offices, the opportunity to learn from and share with others is an exciting one.

A recent collaboration between the offices resulted in a powerful, five-week business strategy development initiative in which people discussed each location’s current market trends and the skills available in-house at every office. “In my experience, when you have different offices, they tend to all be independent, but here, it’s as if COVID had never happened and that was what they were always doing,” says Touma of the Zoom meetings.

That generosity of spirit is visible in other areas of the business, too. The Miami office assists the United Way of Miami to ensure that the community of Coconut Grove also benefits from its successes.

As the role of AI and software continues to grow, its presence in design continues to expand, especially as new graduates enter the workforce. Arquitectonica wholeheartedly embraces this industry change, ensuring it stays in step with the times. As it expands its capabilities, the nimble on-trend creative team continues making its mark on the Miami landscape and far beyond.

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