Set in the heart of the Redlands, FL is a five-acre site that’s being transformed into a private residence and spiritual oasis known as the Hummingbird House.
The Hummingbird House is one of a long list of projects FIU’s chair for the Department of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design (LAEUD), Roberto Rovira, has undertaken along with Bruno Sanabria, ‘08 and Jasbir Singh, MLA ’13, two LAEUD alumni in his professional landscape architecture practice, Studio Roberto Rovira.
Rovira was hired to work on the Hummingbird House four years ago with the intent of creating the perfect harmony between built and natural environments.
“Having worked as a landscape architect for many years in Northern California before coming to Miami to teach at FIU in 2005, I’ve always been interested in places that manage to balance the built and natural environments and that lend themselves to finding an almost magical way to bring out the best in both,” says Rovira. “South Florida’s irrepressible natural environment that brims with life, color and humbling natural phenomena make a setting like the Hummingbird House a perfect opportunity to try to achieve that reassuring balance.”
The Hummingbird House got its name from the homeowner’s inspiration and fascination with hummingbirds. Taken with the idea, Rovira and his studio used the hummingbird to fuel the vision – including the plant palette they chose, which is designed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the area. In particular, the entrance gate of the property is especially designed with these little birds in mind.
Rather than having a single sliding gate, Rovira designed two gates, each showing a hummingbird in flight in a different position. So, when visitors enter or leave the property, the birds on the gate and the shadows they cast on the ground mirror the movements of a hummingbird’s wings in flight. According to Rovira, the optical illusion the gate gives really informs the experience of entering this special place.
“Roberto had a remarkably interesting idea about the entrance gate which captured my curiosity and challenged my beliefs of what could be real,” says Sanabria. “…I am grateful to have had an opportunity to work on this project and to continue to see it evolve, from standard things that you would expect to have to do on any project such as project coordination and oversight, to the power of working with others to realize what might seem impossible.”
Another unique element Rovira and his team incorporated into the design of the Hummingbird House is using the oolitic limestone the property lies on to create waterfalls, sculpture fountains, road surfacing and retaining walls for the house and its grounds. This particular stone allows plants to attach themselves on to it and for roots to penetrate, essentially inviting ongoing forms of life to thrive.
“I have been with Studio Roberto Rovira for last 4 years,” says Singh. “It’s always a great experience working with such a seasoned and academically inclined professional. In the Hummingbird House project, one of the important aspects is harvesting rainwater for recreational purposes, as well irrigating restored flora. In addition, we had an opportunity to re-utilize material resources from on-site and take advantage of an existing pine rockland natural forest community to create a tropical retreat for the owners and to restore native habitat for local fauna. “
Rovira and his team are currently working to wrap up phase one of the project, which aimed at creating a finished landscape between the main house and the guest house and the construction of a natural pond, waterfall, and large tiki hut for events. Other phases include building an entrance and entry drive, creating the landscape around several accessory buildings on the property, an entrance courtyard to the main house, a sculpture garden with informal pedestrian paths throughout and a natural pine rockland forest.
According to Rovira, he and his team were excited to take on this project because the design and vision for the Hummingbird House aligns with goals and ethos he has for his studio. An important objective since founding his Miami-based studio 10 years ago has been to create environments that transform people’s relationship to the natural environment and to find new and exciting ways to live in harmony with it.
“Not only do I have the privilege of working on a project that aligns with many of my studio’s values and in a setting like no other in the world, but it is thanks to a client that has believed in how this special landscape we call home is, that we get to create a setting in harmony with the natural world and that is quickly becoming a welcome habitat for flora, fauna and people,” adds Rovira. “We can’t wait to develop the future project phases that will continue to transform a place while still allowing it to be complementary to the agricultural setting and the simple and inviting aesthetic of the Redland’s agricultural environment.”
To see the latest progress on the Hummingbird House, check out Rovira’s Instagram.