Brillhart Architecture

Brillhart Architecture

Miami, FL


Case Study House

“My Space is Small. My Life is Big.” – From Graham Hill. Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Living with Less.” (3/19/2013)

Like Henry Thoreau’s little cabin next to Walden Pond, this project echoes the spirit that less is more. Located on a typical 50’x120’ lot, the home’s small footprint and orientation on the site enable a rich dialogue between art, culture, architecture and landscape in everyday life. The glass skin of the house dissolves the barriers between interior and exterior, creating a dynamic juxtaposition between the urban orchard outside and a continuous painted mural, representing the everyday architecture and urban fabric of Miami, within. 

The project is a counterproposal to the soulless McMansion, its barren landscape and generic suburban context. Instead, it offers a unique piece of architecture; an opportunity to participate in the local production, use and exchange of food; and a backdoor connection to the architecture, identity and culture of the surrounding City. The smaller footprint, which promotes simplicity and function, provides a number of benefits beyond space: it allows one to live more sustainably; requires less maintenance; reduces clutter; affords higher-quality materials; and most importantly, leaves more time and money for people to simply enjoy other things.


The abstracted ribbon of color on the interior walls is an interpretation of the realist paintings of local artist Jenny Brillhart. Drawing from the everyday architecture and urban fabric of Miami, the works create a dialogue between made and found spaces and forms and their relationship to place, structure and function. The works evolve with a specific history and diary of process, and strive to stay in keeping with the initial impulse of authorship and purpose. As one thing leads to another, the function and meaning of art practice, and what it suggests, is embedded within the forms. The manipulation of objects and materials reveals this process in an attempt to balance and study ideas of beauty, form, and structure through an architectural and pragmatic narrative.


A major component to the project was the urban orchard, which engages owners to actively participate in the production, use and exchange of food. These simple acts evoke different senses of identity – that of maker, neighbor, and environmental citizen.


The planting of fruit- and nut-producing trees helps to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provide additional shade and canopy cover
  • Aid in stormwater retention
  • Bring back the lush vegetation of much of Miami’s stripped, concrete streetscapes
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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Miami, FL, US
Firm Role: Architect