Miami-based architect Rene Gonzalez has designed retail stores, residential buildings (including, recently, the Louver House boutique condo in South Beach), private homes (like 3 Indian Creek Drive in Miami, which had previously set a record for its sale price), restaurants and museums (including working with Richard Meier & Partners on the Getty Museum and Center in Los Angeles).
Recently, he’s turned his attention to climate change, and is currently designing a series of houses that respond to sea level rise in South Florida, including his own treehouse-inspired home, which will stand 14 feet over ground.
We spoke to Mr. Gonzalez about the effects of climate change, why he thinks Miami Beach is still a sure thing, and much more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Rene Gonzalez: I have my dream property, and I’m currently building on it. It’s a John Lautner-esque treehouse, elevated on stilts, which responds to the environmental situation we have today. We have an issue of sea-level rising in Miami. This house responds to environmental issues— by being 14 feet above ground— and to its place, with beautiful views of Biscayne Bay.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
RG: Only the ones that should have gotten away. I believe in destiny.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
RG: At this point, it’s about having time. And it’s also about creating space for people to meditate and relax, and be introverted to some extent; creating space that allows a person to have time on their own.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
RG: We’ve seen North Beach change a lot already. But the next hub for luxury and other properties (e.g. an edgy area that artists will first be interested in) is Allapattah— a warehouse district. It’s not a luxury real estate market yet, but it will be.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
RG: The price point of luxury condos versus luxury single family homes. A couple of years ago, the penthouse at Faena, a new development, sold for about $60 million, breaking records (editor’s note: It’s now back on the market). Prior to that, the last record-breaking sale was for 3 Indian Creek, which we had done, and sold for $47 million. So I guess condos are even more in demand than single-family homes, and that surprises me.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
RG: My closet. It has taken over the entire home I currently live in. The house I’m designing is taking into account my obsession with fashion and stuff I don’t need and accommodating it.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
RG: It’s an elevated home that’s connected to nature and the environment, and it blurs the lines between the inside and outside. I’ve created a treehouse condition that allows you to retreat. In cities like Miami and Los Angeles, there’s an urbanity there, so there’s a nice quality about being able to retreat within those places; that’s what I’m doing with my home.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
RG: Honestly, I’ve just moved my office, and I’ve found that everything is disposable. At first, I was operating with nothing but my laptop. I realized in the process of moving that you collect a lot of stuff.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
RG: A view. It’s rare to find a truly luxurious property without a great view.
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MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
RG: Purchase the most expensive property you’re able to afford, because properties appreciate in ways that are exponential. Why this happens, I don’t know. I’ve bought inexpensive properties and they’re worth a little more over time, but the properties that are more expensive appreciate more.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
RG: Climate change. It’s about responding to the environmental issues in front of us. I think in certain areas, like Miami Beach, you’re going to see homes being built differently. In other areas, where the real estate values are lower and there’s less money invested, you’re going to see prices drop because people will move out. Miami Beach has $50 million which they’re using to invest in solutions to sea-level rise.
MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?
RG: Miami Beach will always be. I think there are other areas in the Miami-Dade area that are becoming more interesting, like Coconut Grove, the Roads—they’re established but getting more interesting.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
RG: Prime resale. I’d sacrifice building over location any time.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
RG: The Miami Beach condo market, hands down. Like I said, there are other developing areas like Coconut Grove and North Beach that have good resale value, but Miami Beach is solid.
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