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Miami Real Estyle: Chad Oppenheim World-Renowned Architect On His Latest Projects & Passion for Architecture

By Angela Betancourt

When he was just seven years old, Miami-based architect Chad Oppenheim watched as his parents built a custom home. He became fascinated with the process and spent a lot of time with the architect learning and absorbing as much as he could. His interest grew throughout his elementary school years and by the time he reached the 8th grade, he was hooked and a lifelong love affair with architecture had begun.

“While most of my friends were reading Sports Illustrated, I was reading Architectural Digest,” said Oppenheim.

Oppenheim went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cornell University and in 1999 became the founding principle of the award winning firm Oppenheim Architecture. Today, Oppenheim has become one of the most sought after architects of his time. His firm has become globally recognized for socially and environmentally conscious architecture and has set trends in the sustainable and humanitarian sectors. “I have a deep respect for the natural world, place, and life, and design projects that support and enhance those experiences. I like to celebrate the sense of place for each project that I’m designing by using natural resources and elements such as light, air, water, sky, views and vegetation, as well as locally sourced materials that root the project in its place,” said the architect. “Nature in itself inspires me.”

His intense passion for green architecture has made Oppenheim a highly demanded speaker and lecturer. He has lectured at some of most prestigious universities in the country and he is the recipient of more than 50 academic and career distinctions. Among all of his awards, Oppenheim is most proud of being elevated to the prestigious College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Oppenheim Architecture has left its mark around the world. In South Florida, the fi rm is behind the Ten Museum Park, Bal Harbour House, Marriott Marco Island, Sonesta Key Biscayne, and dozens more. To say that the firm’s project list is impressive is an understatement.

With Chad Oppenheim at the helm, the company has quickly risen to the ranks of one of the most in-demand architecture firms in the world. Between single-family residences, mixed-use commercial buildings, hotels, and urban projects, Oppenheim Architecture has proven it can tackle just about anything.

Behind all of this success is a strong philosophy and culture about the industry that is the driving force behind Oppenheim’s work. His vision and mission also inspires his team who share the same sense of purpose.

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Photographed by Korey Davis

“We strive to create architecture of elemental means that achieves the maximum effect of building both urbanistically from the scale of the pedestrian, to the experience inside of the building. Modern architecture can sometimes be associated as being cold and absent of charm, but we strive to create the ultimate nurturing and comforting environment for the occupants of our architecture. We want to create buildings and spaces that support and enhance life,” explained Oppenheim.

Creating to support and enhance life means a chance for growth. To Oppenheim, each and every project is an opportunity to evolve in ways that further connect to what he describes as “the spirit of place.” It’s the idea of creating and building structures that seemingly integrate to its surroundings. It’s how Oppenheim brings his philosophy to life and helps define his signature style.

“I love working on projects that integrate themselves into their environment and that celebrate the natural ecology of the place. I enjoy projects of all different scales, and I incorporate my design philosophy into each project regardless of its size. My main mission is to enhance life and the way people live, which is a lot of fun to do with single family homes, resorts and multi-family residences. I love creating incredible houses and environments for amazing clients,” said Oppenheim.

The firm has been keeping busy winning additional accolades and working on both domestic and international projects. They recently won the Asia Pacific 2015 Award for Net Metropolis, a 1,550,000 sq ft mixed-use commercial building. Located in the Philippines, Net Metropolis uses cutting-edge technology and exceptional quality coupled with green design. They also won the 2015 Architizer A+ Awards for Residential Interiors, Jury Winner.

In Miami, they completed designs for a new Whole Foods planned for 1901 Alton Road in Miami Beach which will feature 55,000 sq ft of retail space, 281 parking spaces, and a green wall and planters to shield the garage.

It’s a very exciting time not just for the Oppenheim and his team but also for South Florida and the world. Oppenheim’s projects will continue to set the bar in this city and beyond. Miami especially has come a long way.

“I think Miami has notoriously been a place where great architects designed not-so-great buildings. Now we’re starting to see great architects come in and do great buildings. It’s exciting to see that there’s an added value to projects with good design. It is something that our firm has been a proponent about, especially with residential buildings, which for a long time didn’t get that attention. We are now seeing it globally where residential buildings are getting the highest level of architecture.”

House on a Dune
Photography by Karen Fuchs

House on a Dune is a minimalistic, elegant, and comfortable beach house located in Harbour Island, Bahamas: an island of choice for many high profiled celebrities.

The 3,000 sq ft waterfront private residence was designed to reconnect its inhabitants with nature. Its design celebrates the island’s natural beauty and inspires a powerful connection to place and time. The home was built with environmentally sensitive materials that include concrete blocks, recycled cedar, reused pipe, and milk paint.

The home has sliding doors that are made of impact-resistant glass as well as a palm frond roof made of cedar shakes similar to the architectural styles of many of the homes on the island over the last several hundred years. The home also holds many technological tricks that cleverly hide any visible light fixtures, outlets, air-conditioners or anything that is too modern age.

The overall design was inspired by the work of conceptual artist James Turrell, an American artist known for his distinctive use of light and space. Turrell’s influence is seen throughout the home, for example with the retractable glass walls on the east and west sides of the living area, which frame views of ocean, jungle, and sky, while allowing for light and air to flow freely around the home.

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Oppenheim first came into contact with Turrell’s work when he was in college about 20 years ago. Later, he was captivated with Turrell’s design at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Israel.

“It blew me away at how his work framed the sky and was so powerful in its simplicity. How framing is something that we take for granted everyday–the way that he is framing the sky makes for an incredible work of art. It’s something that is very simple, yet it’s not simple to accomplish because there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes trickery. This is very much like House on a Dune in the Bahamas. To accomplish the simplicity of framing the views with the Bahamas house was highly complicated. The idea was to capture the incredible beauty and the alertness of the elements and their manifestations, which is something that we take for granted every day,” he shared.

At the soul of House on a Dune is an open breezeway that connects the main areas of the house. In this space is the living and dining areas that open onto large verandahs that are protected by deep overhangs of the gabled roof. The kitchen and four bedrooms are arranged around this main space.

House on a Dune reflects the type of projects that are meant to preserve and enhance beautiful and delicate ecosystems. Through their work, they are able to recreate and help preserve these places, not destroy them.

Renderings Courtesy of Oppenheim Architecture

His mission to enhance life rings true no matter the size or scope of the project he is working on. This is evident in Metropica, a massive mixed-use complex being developed by Joseph Kavana of KGH International Development, LLC. in the City of Sunrise next to the Sawgrass Mills Mall. When complete, this billion-dollar project will feature 2,250 high-rise residential units, more than 400,000 sq ft of commercial space, and 150,000 sq ft of office space on 65 acres of land.

Oppenheim was part of the team that came together to create the vision for this unprecedented concept. This city within a city promotes “a new way of life” that challenges existing notions of what it means to live an urban lifestyle. Oppenheim has used works like tropical modernism and ecological urbanism to describe his approach. His passion to build socially and environmentally conscious architecture is always at the forefront.

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The Metropica way of life means living, working, and playing in a community that offers luxury amenities, entertainment options, international cuisine, and plenty of outdoor green parks and spaces. Some of the amenities include a fitness studio, outdoor yoga, steam room, sauna, two full-sized tennis courts, children’s play room, outdoor games area and indoor clubroom.

The residences of tower one feature interiors by YOO Studio Design, known as YOO at Metropica. There are open floor plans with floor-to-ceiling windows, 9 or 10 foot high ceilings, spacious balconies, advanced smart-home technologies, designer kitchens and contemporary bathrooms. Metropica will take about 10 years to complete but the first stages are already scheduled to begin.

For more information on Oppenheim Architecture, please visit

Click here to view this post in the September/October 2015 digital issue

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