Make no mistake: Miami Beach’s spectacular new Prairie Residence — built with sea level rise in mind — is no little house on the prairie.
To adapt to South Florida’s rising sea levels, prominent architect Rene Gonzalez is designing homes in flood zones to be built off the ground. His latest in South Florida is a specially designed luxury pad for Detroit businessman Hany Boutros on Prairie Avenue in Miami Beach.
The Prairie Residence is built on stilts with a landscape that allows for ample water drainage. It is accessed by a custom bronze retractable staircase, which lifts up into the center of the house — starship style — when not in use and acts as an extra method for security, providing a safe haven before, during and after hurricanes and flooding.
Gonzalez attributes Florida’s mangrove trees as the inspiration behind this project. The indigenous mangrove trees and shrubs are responsible for protecting coastal zones from erosion, storm surge and hurricanes, while at the same time providing a habitat for Florida’s subtropical flora and fauna. Similarly, Prairie Residence lightly touches the ground as a result of the stilts that act like a root system as the house reaches upward, toward the sky.
The home features other unique elements besides its environmental adaptability. The property embodies a natural and tropical vibe: living trees grow throughout the house, floor-to-ceiling windows let in natural light, a lap pool runs through the middle of the space, and the roof houses an open-air Jacuzzi that offers unobstructed views of sunsets and stars.
The raised-wood-and-concrete structure gives off a high-end treehouse vibe. Its modern interior design and architecture flows throughout the property and into the living room, dining area, kitchen, master bedroom, and two “guest pods,” which serve as mini apartments for Boutros’ clients, friends and family.
Solutions to Sea Level Rise — Other Than Fleeing
While some believe that the only answer to sea level rise is to flee Miami, Gonzalez has introduced this type of property as an alternative solution.
“Unfortunately, most of the press on sea level rise is alarmist rather than focused on adaptive solutions that are sympathetic to nature instead of in opposition to it,” the architect said. “Our design approach both acknowledges traditional precedents and is adapted to contemporary living in harmony with the challenges of the changing environment.”
Gonzalez added: “We are already starting to see buyers opting to live in more resilient homes in Miami. This will only continue. The City of Miami Beach is looking at changes to zoning that will allow the ground level of elevated houses to be open and utilized for tropical living, in effect allowing for more resilient single-family homes. The city has been incredibly proactive on this issue by investing money in pump stations and elevating streets to mitigate the situation. While they know that their solutions are not permanent, they are not waiting to act — and neither should we.”
While this particular home is a luxury residence, the elevated-house concept can be variously scaled and priced, Gonzalez said. He said he believes that there is no reason why new developments should not adapt and consider this model. The Prairie Residence is the first elevated house that Gonzalez’s team has completed, but he has confirmed four other projects are either under construction or will begin soon.