“Environmental modernism.” Care to take a stab at the definition?
It’s perhaps not as new a concept as you might think. [STRANG], for one — a Florida-based multidisciplinary design firm — has been practicing this design philosophy since before the turn of the new millennium. Founded in 1998 by Max Strang, the firm designs with an eye trained carefully towards respectful stewardship of the natural world. Its designs are heavily influenced by the climate and surrounding environmental ecology, advocating for better design while employing sustainable principles and practices.
With offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota, the firm has been uniquely interpreting tropical modernism in projects throughout the southern state, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and the United Arab Emirates.
Strang himself was heavily influenced by the works of Gene Leedy, a Florida-based pioneer of the state’s modernist movement and a co-founder of the Sarasota School of Architecture. It was an influence not born out of study, but of first-hand experience; Strang grew up in a house designed by Leedy. He experienced for himself, from a young age, the importance of integrating a structure with its environmental surroundings. Paramount, he learned, was a building’s regional character, cultural sensibilities, and identity. The backdrop of his life, you might say, was a type of informal lesson.
The firm’s impressive body of work was recently celebrated at the Center for Architecture in Sarasota in an exhibit entitled [STRANG]: The Art of Architecture. Twenty years of environmental modernism were showcased through architectural models, photography, renderings, videos of construction sites, sketches by Max Strang, and satellite mappings of Florida’s varied topography. In particular, thirteen projects spanning from the years 2002‑2018 were highlighted.
Scroll down for a look at [STRANG]’s innovative fusion of modernist aesthetics, tropical sensibilities, and environmental mindfulness.
“Located directly adjacent to Biscayne Bay and immediately south of downtown Miami, the Bass Residence underscores the firm’s continued exploration with the concept of a floating rectilinear frame,” the firm shares via press release.
Inside, this proximity to water is a motif carried through the materials, especially through reflective glass. Upstairs, a vertical, exposed concrete “pier”, structurally supported by two fin-like pieces, anchors the top two floors.
Ballast Trail Residence
This home, located in Key Largo, is comprised of two individual volumes separated by a breezeway — a classic, cooling layout that originated in southern climates. This ultra-modern beach house honours the local landscape via its material choices; the primary cladding consists of fossilized coral reef, while inside, spatial organization is achieved through grand walls of Florida “keystone.”
“The design goes beyond a simple response to the climate and site,” says the firm. “It offers an evolutionary design which creatively celebrates the cultural, ecological, and physical environment of the Florida Keys.”
This elegant, contemporary structure is the first LEEDS-certified home in Winter Haven, Florida. The house, ensconced within a white stucco shell, features passive environmental concepts that both celebrate the climate and work within its challenges; for instance, it allows an abundance of daylight while allowing for plenty of cross-ventilation opportunities. The outer shell is designed with eight-foot overhangs, which protect the house from harsh, direct sunlight. The secondary volumes within the shell feature Resysta cladding, a composite material made from rice husks, mineral oil, and salt.
A solar photovoltaic system, solar hot-water heaters, geothermal HVAC, and LED lighting were included as active environmental features.
West San Marino Residence
Located in Miami Beach, this home is situated on a narrow lot that provides westerly views of Biscayne Bay and the neighbouring islands. “Site and climatic considerations resulted in a design that provides expansive views from sheltered living areas,” says the firm.
The home is accessed via an exterior elongated walkway and formal entrance, which teases of the breathtaking views that await as one passes further into the home. The interior features an open-concept layout in which the kitchen, living, and dining areas are combined to create one luxurious, thoroughfare-friendly space.