Campo Sano Village
This project’s site was one of the few remaining multi-acre, undeveloped parcels in South Florida’s upscale community of Coral Gables. Surrounded by existing rental duplex units, the site provided enviable open views across a large golf course but the urban implications and challenges of sitting directly across from a medium-sized hospital complex, as well as proximity to a large private university campus. The 2.2 acre property could have been developed as of right as a series of duplex structures. The Owner opted instead to take advantage of a new zoning designation (Planned Area Development) within the City’s strict zoning ordinance that allows a creative re-arranging of the combined density of contiguous parcels that add up to at least 2 acres. The solution arrived at for this unusual site by the Architect and the Owner at a 2-day charrette became a complex of five walled compounds composed of rowhouses, a unit type that is rarely seen in this Garden City-era community. The project takes its inspiration from two primary sources: the 1920s-era “historic villages” of Coral Gables and the 14th-century religious enclaves of Belgium known as béguinages.
In 1925, town founder George Merrick commissioned the development of 19 themed villages in Coral Gables. Interspersed amidst the Spanish Revival buildings of the new town, these were designed to showcase architectural styles from picturesque and exotic locales. Though only 74 homes were completed before the hurricane of 1926, today there remain seven of these villages, including the Chinese Village, the French City and Country Villages, and the Florida Pioneer or Colonial Village. Most feature continuous garden walls or picket fences at the block perimeter, which provide private courtyards and interior garden spaces within a coherent urban environment.
Béguinages were a type of religious community found in the Low Countries of Europe in the late Middle Ages. Similar to convents, béguinages were walled communities of rowhouses arranged around courtyards. Often defining major open spaces, they housed women who worked making crafts or, in some cases, providing nursing care. For these reasons, the béguinage seemed an appropriate typological precedent for this village adjacent to a hospital and the large open space of the golf course.
The project seeks to bring these traditions together in a Dutch Colonial style. The arrangement of each compound features the rowhouses aligned along the edge of the property with direct views of the golf course. Their garages and entry courts define the street-edge. The intended result is to insulate the residences from the site’s urban conditions and, simultaneously, to contribute a continuous architecture that gives character to the street. A series of 4 ft. garden walls along the street define the automobile entrances, and create private courtyards that screen the service elements from street view and contain a variety of tropical palms and flowering vines. An existing stand of live oak trees between the first and second compounds is preserved and enhanced as a hammock (a plant community of species native to South Florida) that includes palmettos, slash pines, and gumbo limbo trees. As in many of the historic villages of Coral Gables, the garages are attached to the garden walls and feature windows to the street, while the garage doors face the interior auto courts. Above the garages, just as in the carriage houses of the historic Dutch South African Village, several units house auxiliary bedrooms, which offer an additional layer of “eyes on the street.” These attached suites above the garages are possible in units at the edge of each compound. The other detached garages are situated opposite their respective units.