The new MDO building is situated along southwest 84th Street, one lot south of Tamiami Trail. Its immediate context is defined by a myriad of strip shopping malls and speculative office buildings set hundreds of feet from the main street to accommodate expansive surface parking lots. The result is a cacophony of structures that is emblematic of Miami’s suburban landscape.
We began this project at the height of the Great Recession and from the onset we had to face the challenges of a limited budget, a less than optimal site and a stringent building and zoning code. Nevertheless, we wanted to engage the project because we found common ground with an unconventional client who was interested in developing a building to redefine their retail brand and in so doing transform their existing context. In addition, we were interested in engaging a real and not an idealized Miami Main Street with the aim of confronting the aesthetic challenge of working within the quotidian commercial landscape, recomposing and transforming the elements of Miami’s commercial vernacular including signage, shopfronts, the suburban lawn and even the painted asphalt that covers most of the city’s streets.
The final project reverses the typical urban patterns of the area by pressing the building close to the street and placing the surface parking lot along the rear of the property. Moreover, it sets itself in sharp contrast to its immediate neighbors by developing an architectural language of abstraction and restraint- where a few important elements, such as the recessed entry with its shopfront window are set within large expanses of mute stuccoed walls that house nearly five thousand men’s suits within.
The main double-volume, retail space is the central focus of the building. Its thickened walls are lined with stacked rows of merchandise and it’s ceiling is composed of modified pre-fabricated double tees. The heightened volume is an unexpected spatial experience flooded with natural light and in direct opposition to the cavernous, artificially-lit interiors, characteristic of the adjacent strip malls and office parks.