Design of the Times, By Ryan Young
April 17, 2017
“Chad Oppenheim has only been speaking for 30 seconds but the celebrity names are already coming thick and fast. There is the singer Robin Thicke, who was shooting a music video at Oppenheim’s Miami home a day earlier, Nicki Minaj, the guest rapper who never showed up to the shoot and Elle Macpherson, the model who posed for Harper’s Bazaar at House on a Dune, an idyllic, sunkissed private home he designed in the Bahamas. She loved the house so much, she promptly asked Oppenheim to design her a property.
It might sound like a collision of worlds for the celebrated American architect but there are plenty of high profile names who take a keen interest in architecture – not least because designing their own homes to be as private and aesthetically pleasing as possible is intrinsic to their lifestyles. Oppenheim designed the $100 million Bel Air Villa for Transformers director Michael Bay, a 3,000sq m Bond villainesque lair built into the hillside looking down on Los Angeles. Michael Mann shot chunks of 2006 blockbuster Miami Vice in his Villa Allegra.
And Pharrell Williams, the singer-songwriter behind the tune Happy, has commissioned Oppenheim to design a church to be called the Altar of Sound and an eco treehouse-themed resource centre, both in the superstar’s hometown of Virginia Beach.
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There is little to link [Oppenheim’s] eclectic designs but environment is always key, both aesthetically and ethically. ‘To me it is not just about architecture, it is about the whole sensibility of how life can be lived,’ says Oppenheim. ‘It has to exist and engage with all the senses. It is not only what it looks like but also how it sounds, smells, the taste and the texture – these things are all critical.’
. . . [H]e is in demand from both high profile names and high net worth individuals. Oppenheim says he does not have a style but bases his design on ‘a very deep understanding of the site and the client’. ‘I would like to say we create works that are timeless – something connected to the culture, history, climate and sensibilities of the place in a very abstract and powerful way, something that will be eternal and transcend passing styles. We are thinking of how things will look 500 years from now.’
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‘We pride ourselves on making our clients successful, making sure they enjoy a great return on their investment, whether it be an office building, a residential tower, a hotel or a house.’”