Made in Miami: René González on Calm, Clarity, and Immediacy

Saxon Henry Saxon Henry

In our continued exploration of how architects experience the emotional realm during the process of creation, Architizer presents the points of views of some of the profession’s most actualized practitioners. From tributes to his former mentor — Sarasota School great Mark Hampton, who passed away earlier this year — to discussions about elevated living to address rising sea levels, René González is an active voice concerning architecture on South Florida’s shores. The founder of René González Architect was one of ‘Four Florida Moderns’featured in Saxon Henry’s book of the same name.

Saxon Henry: I have emotional responses when I experience architecture, and I’m curious to know if you are aware of having emotional responses when creating it.

René González: The design process is more about observing and having a rational response rather than an emotional one. By this I mean listening to the client, understanding the special qualities of the site, and considering spatial relationships and materials. Emotion is actually something I try to leave out of the design process because it follows that the ego becomes involved.

Indian Creek, Miami Beach, Fla.

SH: Do you have a normal emotional starting point once you know you are going to take on a project?

RG: Open and anticipatory — always excited by a new challenge with new parameters and possibilities!

SH: Do you know when you’ve “got it,” meaning you know emotionally when you have the best design for a building you can possibly create at any given time?

RG: Yes, when the right elements finally come together, there is a sense of calm and clarity.

GLASS residential tower, Miami Beach, Fla.

SH: Do you feel that as an architect matures, different emotions come into play, or do you feel temperament is a set piece of the personality?

RG: There is more confidence, as well as an ease with decisions, that comes through maturation, but temperament is definitely something that is part of one’s makeup. It may be more easily managed as one matures, but the emotional impulses remain.

SH: Do you do active charrettes in your studios with your teams, and, if so, how does emotionality come into play during that process?

RG: Only on occasion. And, again, emotionality does not play a strong role at the outset of the design process. Charrettes are more about problem-solving and, as such, demand a certain amount of rational thinking, which can be hampered with too much emotion.

Icon residential tower, Miami Beach, Fla.

SH: Do you find any one type of project more emotionally challenging than any other?

RG: Private residences are probably more emotionally challenging only because homes are really about the client and require more restraint as opposed to the design typologies one draws from for museums and commercial projects, which are more about creating and exploring the immediacy of the visitor experience.