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Praxis Architecture designs Casa Rivo Alto in Miami Beach, Florida, United States

Project name:
Casa Rivo Alto
Architecture firm:
Praxis Architecture
Rivo Alto Island, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
David Hernandez
Principal architect:
Jose Ludovino Sanchez
Design team:
Jpse Ludovino Sanchez, Felix Ruiz, Javier, Arriola, Roberto Ruiz
Interior design:
Edith Peraza
Built area:
5200 ft²
Site area:
10400 ft²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
ACE Engineering
Structural engineer:
Unison Structural engineers
Environmental & MEP:
Praxis Architecture
Diego Vanderbiest
Emuna Construction
Praxis Architecture
Tools used:
Emuna Construction
Concrete, Concrete blocks
Perez Yoma Development
Residential › House

Praxis Architecture: The project is located on Rivo Alto Island, a lozenge shaped artificial island built in 1926, on the Biscayne Bay waterway, part of a string connecting Miami to Miami Beach. The lot (60 ft x 150 ft) enjoys views of the downtown Miami skyline to the West. It is approximately 6 ft above the main water level, as most of coastal Miami. The prevailing breeze is from the East due to its proximity to the Sea. Foreseeing possible flood conditions, the house is elevated to 16 ft above the sea level, creating a cross-ventilated and shaded casual living space at the ground level.

At about the same time these islands were built, the archetypal elevated house, Ville Savoye was designed. Today, by necessity, we must embrace the pilotis concept building elevated homes in low elevation areas. This project attempts to resolve some of the main the main challenges for this type of structure.

One challenge is the proper connection to the ground level, to make it usable and perceived as part of the house. Courtyards and indentations allow visual integration across the different levels. The pool and pond are always visible and inviting. 3 stairs and an elevator facilitate the circulation to the ground floor. The courtyards and indentations filter natural light to the lower level, of critical importance in this narrow lot with 7.5 feet setbacks and a tall structure.

The mass on a 3-level structure, especially on narrow streets, narrow lots, presents a contextual challenge. The front of the house is a 2-level portion, in a scale proportional to the neighboring houses; while the rear facing the open water body is 3 levels. The courtyards and indentations on the sides interrupt continuous high walls to the extent possible.

A third challenge is how to provide a transitional access to the main level. The main entry path extends over 40 ft of length, a gradual ascent with generous landings and viewpoints. In contrast to the typical prototypes in the area: steep/overly monumental exterior stairs or interior access lobbies lacking in residential character.

This villa adopts the elevated house prototype in a design appropriate to the site and our times. The overall design is in a tropical spirit, with lush landscaping and extensive use of wood and warm colors. The water side facing the Bay with more nautical references and generous glazing for unobstructed views.


Praxis is about unique uplifting and practical solutions. Innovation balanced with common sense. Through negotiating the conflicting requirements of site, climate, regulations, technologies, financial aspects and functionality we generate a design diagram that represents the synthesis of these forces, and develop this diagram into a cohesive and clear architectural language .

Praxis is a collaborative design studio based in Miami, Florida.  Working in collaboration with our clients, consultants, contractors and fabricators we search for appropriate solutions for each project. Our work is focused on resolving fundamental problems of space, light, constructability and order, rather than developing a unique stylistic architectural language.

Our practice has developed around constant themes of applied research and exploration in the tradition of tropical modernism, essentially finding solutions appropriate to our tropical location and appropriate for our time;  such as dissolving boundaries between outdoors-indoors; creating an integrated approach that includes landscaping, architecture and interiors; creating casual environments that exude sensual elegance and appeal to the all the senses and exploring the possibilities of spatial perception in our changing tropical environment.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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