For Curbed Young Gun Andres Arcila, landscape design wasn't a long-held dream so much as the natural progression of his career. Arcila, 33, trained in architecture at Florida International University?where he was mentored by noted local architect Rene Gonzalez?and Parsons and began working at architecture firms. But when he decided to return to South Florida after the birth of his first child, Arcila didn't want to take a traditional architecture job, so instead he turned to landscape design, joining Raymond Jungles. He intended his move to Florida to be temporary, but large projects?like 1111 Lincoln Road?kept coming his way. When he and the rest of the firm's senior staff were let go from Raymond Jungles in 2009, Arcila followed a long-time goal of starting his own company and opened Naturalficial. (Arcila is in the process of becoming licensed as a landscape architect.)
"When you're first starting off, people always have a kind of hesitation as to whether you're able to do the same kind of work you were doing for the company on your own," Arcila explains, but shortly after he launched his own firm, a few local architects gave him the opportunity to demonstrate that he could. A booming market hasn't hurt: "The environment here in Miami now, it's kind of crazy. It appears as if?nothing really happened a couple of years ago with the economy." Arcila's portfolio includes residential and hospitality projects.
His firm's name, Naturalficial, encapsulates his design philosophy, which involves balancing the rigor and control of architecture with less-controllable natural elements like trees and plantings. One of our Young Guns judges, Thomas Balsley, sees just this balance when he looked at Arcila's work. "He is clearly as much an architect as he is a landscape person," Balsley says. His work "was very contemporary, it was very clean, it was very much a reflection of our time, the highest levels of what we consider to be art and culture. He had a very strong command of materiality, and of simple, strong bold statements that were very complimentary to one another." The dual architecture and landscape background is part of what makes Arcila ideal to work with, says local architect Allan Shulman, who is collaborating with Arcila on several homes and hotels.
Arcila begins by "creating the framework for the project," including paths, pools, decks, and other built elements, "and then the planting kind of comes and goes and it could change over time and it's okay as long as I give it a strong framework."
We asked Arcila to tell us about some of his favorite projects.
? Arcila describes this private residence as one of his favorite garden renovation projects, partly because the homeowner was "a plant enthusiast?who already had a large collection of native specimens on-site." To augment the work the owner had already done, Arcila focused on "structure, order, and hierarchy," adding a hidden garden, entry portals, and a new pool "that opens up the site and emphasizes the width of the property."
? Arcila worked with Shulman and Associates on Miami's South Seas hotel (as well as other hotel projects). The lot, Allan Shulman explains, is "a very Miami Beach condition," with a "narrow, long oceanfront lot that is hemmed in by other large hotels on both sides." Some of the landscaping ends up being confined to a narrow patio, and Arcila, Shulman says, was able to turn that space into "a beautiful green box?.We always think that Miami's about the sun, but part of it's about working in the shade."
? Shulman and Arcila are also collaborating on this private Sunset Island residence, where Arcila had to work with a horticulturist, arborist, and the city's urban forester to relocate a 40-foot-tall oak tree on the site. In the renovated home, the tree will get its own centralized courtyard. As with the South Seas hotel, the house is on a narrow waterfront lot that must serve several different functions as a well-designed but active residential space. Arcila, says Shulman, is "very perceptive about creating spaces that people occupy and yet making them?artful at the same time?.The fact that he does it with the sensibility of coming from being an architect makes it work even better."
· Naturalficial [official site]
· All Young Guns 2013 coverage [Curbed National]