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Praxis Architecture Builds Luxury Homes In Tune with Nature

The quiet, residential community of Village of Key Biscayne, an island just off Florida’s coastline near Miami, is experiencing something of a building boom. In the last three years, Jose L. Sanchez of Praxis Architecture has designed approximately twenty-five houses there, and more will finish construction in 2012.

The island was recently renourished with a 44,000-ton sand delivery over the summer. Nature is important to Key Biscayne residents, who strive to maintain an ecological balance with wildlife, dunes, nature preserves, and beaches. One-and-a-quarter miles of the island is housing, mostly single-family homes. Shops, boutiques, eateries, sports greens, jogging trails, and playgrounds also share space with nature. In designing luxury homes for high-end clients and developers, Sanchez found that islanders even want their homes—including the modern-style ones—to incorporate and respect nature.

Sanchez encounters different issues with each of his Key Biscayne houses, and addresses them with practical solutions. He does not aim to create an architectural language unique to Praxis, but rather, to find individual solutions to clients’ needs. Referring to the Key Biscayne projects, he says, “Each one has something unique.” However, a continual thread has run through most of them: how to fit a maximum-size luxury home and an extensive yard into a restricted lot. In some instances, he has created an L-shaped house that utilizes the side yard as a main yard.

Additionally, because houses are closely arranged, he allots for a hedge of palm or bamboo to surround the plot for privacy—nature’s solution to a wire or picket fence. He also aims to integrate interior and exterior, either by a courtyard, entryway, or by siting a pool adjacent to the house. Renderings of 275 Hampton Lane, [] scheduled to open in December 2012, show this pool tactic. The view of the water through the expansive windows creates a calming sensation, and, with a hedge behind it, gives the idea that one is on his own private island.

For a Gulf Road house, the architect provided a covered, outdoor space near the entryway, so that upon entering the glass front doors, one avoids the feeling of stepping into an enclosure. This courtyard also gives the facade a distinct, open appearance. The Quintero residence has an entirely different look: outdoor stairs, seen from the entryway, invite residents to remain outside as long as possible, even when traveling between levels. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround much of the first floor, providing views to the outdoors from most angles. Sanchez aims to compose an architectural volume that is pleasing from all angles, not just the one facing the street, and with Quintero, he has created a form that appears to move. A horizontal band, jutting out from the base of the second floor, serves as a deck above and porch overhang below, and leads the viewer’s eye from one side to the next, morphing into the diagonal stairs; each view differs in form, silhouette, and privacy.

Sanchez received a Master’s of Architecture in Design and Urban Development from Pratt School of Architecture. He has been practicing architecture since 1993, first independently out of New York and New Jersey, including for such esteemed firms as Perkins Eastman Architects, before founding Praxis in 2003. Whether in Village of Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, or elsewhere across the region, his single- and multi-family dwellings are sure to interest and excite any architectural voyeur.


The Beacon Council. “Community of Neighborhoods.”

Praxis Architecture.