The Real Deal Miami

Oppenheim Architecture’s “Spirit of Place” explores new terrain for design

Book shows firm's proposed and completed projects in far-flung places
By Kathryn Brenzel | July 18, 2018 08:45AM

Not every architect would choose to express his work through a haiku about dunes.

But Oppenheim Architecture’s new book “Spirit of Place” does just that — along with 17-syllable meditations on the desert, sea, peninsulas, canyons, rivers and streams.

“I really appreciated the simplicity and elegance of reducing things down to their essence,” Chad Oppenheim, principal of his eponymous firm, told The Real Deal. “The haiku is saying more with less.”

This is a prevailing theme of the book, which is dominated by more than 500 pictures of the firm’s proposed and completed projects. The images literally speak for themselves — since text in the tome is sparse. The idea is for readers to immerse themselves in the various terrains: One section shows a private residence — dubbed the Dune House — that Oppenheim designed for his family and himself on a secluded island in the Bahamas. Another portion — focused on deserts — features a luxury resort right out of science fiction: the Wadi Rum Desert Resorts. The proposed hotel, whose construction has been delayed due to local opposition, would be built into sandstone and granite cliffs, known as Wadi Rum, in Jordan. The sea section of the book takes readers to the Zulal Destination Spa and Family Resort, a proposed, crescent-shaped getaway in Qatar.

Much of the Miami-based firm’s work focuses on design that interacts seamlessly with the environment.

“The idea was for us to blur the boundaries between them,” Oppenheim said. “We want to make these things more primitive. Architecture without architects always holds a lot of logic. It’s not looking for statements.”

His work in Miami includes Ten Museum Park, a 200-unit condo tower, and more recently, the headquarters for GLF Construction. The firm also designed director Michael Bay’s private home in Los Angeles. Oppenheim said he’s now working on a movie set design for Bay — though he wouldn’t elaborate — and on a surf park in Virginia Beach with Pharrell Williams.

As for New York City, Oppenheim has had a few false starts. Silverstein Properties scrapped a design for its tower at 520 West 41st Street, filing plans for a smaller project in August. The firm also won a design contest for a hotel located right next to the Williamsburg Savings Bank, but that project has been delayed for several years. Oppenheim said the firm is still on the hunt for opportunities to design its first high-rise in New York.