4150 Malaga Avenue
This project includes the renovation of – and sensitive addition to – a rare, 1950’s case study house designed by acclaimed architect, Trip Russell, in 1948. Russell, alongside other architects working in South Florida’s post-war period, gave birth to a tropical modern school of thought, developing a regional interpretation of the International Style by turning to local landscape, climate and materials to inform the work. With its open plan, steel structure, ribbon windows, and inset columns, this house exemplifies the experimentation and optimism of that era.
However, the home is small –1,100 sf with one bedroom/ bath – and is located in one of Miami’s most-desired neighborhoods, where land is increasingly valuable and older, smaller homes are rapidly being demolished. Fortunately, the client found a way to extend the life of the house, asking us to renovate the building and provide a sensitive addition.
Notably, the site features a (-)8’ elevation change in the rear of the property – a rare topographic condition for a neighborhood that is consistently flat. Old growth trees and a shady, tropical canopy provided a spectacular backdrop. As a result, we set forth several important design goals. The first was to maintain the ethos of the original structure while modernizing it according to a new, highly stringent building code. The second was to respect the massing, size, scale, form, and architectural features of the building while adding 2,850 square feet. We also wanted to take advantage of the topography and celebrate the tropical landscape – all the while, balancing the restrictive parameters of existing conditions, building setbacks, budget, and program requirements.