Q&A WITH TOUZET STUDIO’S JACQUELINE GONZALEZ TOUZET
Creative, adaptive reuse projects are reinvigorating the Miami landscape, modernizing it with innovative design while preserving its rich history. We talked with Touzet Studio partner Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet to learn about how her firm manages this delicate balancing act.
Bisnow: What are some recent or upcoming projects you’ve embarked on that you’re particularly excited about?
Jackie: We recently completed a couple of flagship buildings on one entire block of historic Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, including the new Apple Store, Gap and a forthcoming Nike Store. All three projects were for global design brands that wanted a unique expression of their vision in Miami, and all were approved unanimously on the first or second reading by the Historic Preservation Board.
We also just started working on the adaptive reuse of two properties on 8th Street with The Barlington Group. One is a small computer office, which will be reimagined as a vibrant retail and rooftop entertainment venue on Brickell. The other is a Calle Ocho project which will bring an entertainment and event venue into a historic 1920s retail space.
We are working on an entire city block in Wynwood—a mixed-use project which will include hotel, residential units and retail for Thor Equities. It draws inspiration from the industrial past of Wynwood while also integrating the maker and artist community and culture.
Finally, we are in the process of working on the historic The Raleigh Hotel and revitalizing that property by adding a private member club component, which will be called the Raleigh Cabana Club. This extensive restoration of the property was also approved unanimously and received very well by the Historic Preservation Board.
Bisnow: What do you perceive to be the most significant market trends impacting adaptive reuse?
Jackie: We think there is an increasing understanding and respect for the unique qualities of some of Miami’s historic buildings, and an accompanying desire to weave these stories into the fabric of new projects.
Miami is a young city, and many developers haven’t been very interested in its past—until now. It is also a collection of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique history and characteristics: Coconut Grove, South Beach, Wynwood, Little Havana.
Developers are starting to wake up that they should not try to force a one-size-fits-all design approach. People crave authenticity and a sense of place. Adaptive reuse and preservation is a way to accomplish that very effectively.
We are finally seeing some really innovative developers who are interested in belonging to a neighborhood and embracing its character and history. We are also seeing a much more sophisticated understanding of well-crafted, modern architecture. That’s a very welcome change.
Bisnow: Could you expand on Touzet Studio’s approach to design and architecture and explain what differentiates it from other firms?
Jackie: We are architects who love modernism and finely crafted design solutions. We are also huge history, technology and culture nerds!
We design modern architecture (like the Brown Jordan flagship above and Design District project below) but we also love to restore and incorporate historical elements where they exist. That love affair with keeping our Miami stories alive while bringing in something new and fresh started for us when Carlos and I first met and designed the Setai Hotel before we formed Touzet Studio; we had to document the original building.
We are also interior designers and product designers. We have designed entire city blocks as well as bespoke interiors and lighting fixtures. Our attention to detail and understanding of materials is an area where I think our studio is fairly unique in Miami.
We love the journey and the process as much as the end product. I think we probably do more historical and material research, building more models and mock-ups than many other local firms. We think of our architecture as a way to tell stories about the people and the place.
We are probably one of the few studios that has won Design Excellence awards for New, Built Work from AIA Florida and Miami as well as an award for Preservation/Renovation of a Historic Building, which we won this year at a state and city level.
This year we also became the first and only studio in Miami to win Architect of the Year for both principals—a new recognition that our design work is the product of a husband-and-wife-led design studio. Our studio is as diverse as Miami is: more than half female and almost all immigrants! At the same time, we have deep roots in Miami and have been here since we were small children. We are deeply committed to this city.
We love our history and our city. We believe all new architecture needs to be an expression of its time but we also think that as a society we become impoverished when our best historical fabric, our stories, are ripped away. We also believe the “greenest” way to build is to keep what can be and should be preserved. Not all of the buildings that are around us rise to the level of architecture; some were never meant to last more than 20 or 30 years. But our city does have some great buildings that deserve preservation and by cleverly reusing them in a way that can make them relevant and useful, we honor that rich heritage.