Cube by Oppenheim

July 31, 2010

You can choose the design of your phone, your computer, and your car – so why not your condominium?

That’s what Chad Oppenheim, head of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture & Design, asked himself while putting together his architectural thesis at Brown University.

The question became the impetus for his latest project: a condominium complex, set to be completed by the end of 2010, that takes a bottom-up, user-generated approach to constructing residential space.

Cube promotes its occupants to design their own domain with the possibility of connecting multiple cube modules vertically, horizontally, and diagonally in addition to creating double height volumes, garden voids and cantilevered living environments.

In a building that is going beyond the box, you buy cubes of space and then you decide how they are being placed together. You can arrange your cubes of space horizontally of course, vertically which is nice, and then you can go beyond any expectation for a high-rise.  You can tell Oppenheim you want the cubes to meet diagonally, have an open space (they are calling them “voids”) for say, a garden, and even leave the building and jump out into space.  In the CUBE building that wouldn’t be a balcony jutting off the side, it would be the entire cube of space, 625 sq ft.   Like in the style of Cubism the objects, in this case, living spaces, are broken up and looked at from an abstract perspective.  Chad Oppenheim, says of it, “ The original inspiration was my thesis project at Cornell, an idea of creating a vertical neighborhood, with people building and defining their own domains similar to how they do so in horizontal developments of single family houses.”[i] 

To further complete the cubist analogy, many cubists felt that time was the 4th dimension and time was best represented as a cube; the very center of the cube being the current reality of the person.  In the CUBE it works out that time will stay current because the CUBE system isn’t just great for the original buyers of the condos, it also makes it easier for future residents to remodel.  Future laborers with sledge hammers can go through walls sure, we expect that, but how about the floors?  Oppenheim wanted all of CUBE’s users to have endless possibilities but, as he puts it, with a laugh, “We didn’t want to give them a leash to hang themselves.”[ii] 

They achieve this by grouping the necessary elements – plumbing, electrical, air treatments – in a central core.  This is a classic technique in Modern architecture which here is being refined and taken to another level.  In the case of this building aptly named CUBE, Oppenheim met with his engineer, Ysreal Seinuk and asked “What if we do the structural system on the outside, a girded, diagonal bracing, so we don’t need sheer walls coming down internally?”[iii] Together they found that by placing a strong steel frame on the exterior to carry the load of the weight, the building becomes more economical, and since the floors are not cantilevered or sources of support, they become as non-essential as a dividing wall.

The building starts construction this year, 2008 in Miami’s design district.  Specifically it will come to be at 50 NE 41st St, Miami FL 33137.  It will stand 22 stories high.  If you wanted to buy into it the prices as of September 2007 are charted below.  Join up with this generation’s architectural Picasso, Chad Oppenheim, and sculpt out a new kind of living space.


1 bedroom’s, 625 sq. ft., starting $375,000.

2 one bedroom units, 1,250 sq. ft., starting at $750,000

The cubes are available on a first-come, first-served basis, although you can’t book them online yet. Oppenheim says residents shouldn’t be forced to compromise.

“The goal is to create an innovative but simple structure that gives flexibility,” he says. “This is going to be the next tier of living.



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