Designer Friday: An ASPIRE Exclusive Interview With Chad Oppenheim

What separates Oppenheim Architecture from any other architecture firm, is the fact they build based on both a physical and spiritual sensitivity and believe in creating timeless and functional architecture that focuses on bettering life. Founder Chad Oppenheim has gained global recognition for his socially and environmentally conscious architecture and continues to set trends in the sustainable and humanitarian sectors. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Chad Oppenheim.


This private residence project is located in Harbour Island, Bahamas. It’s both a sensual and sensitive atmosphere as it’s tucked away alongside cerulean waters of the Atlantic edge of the Great Bahama bank.

Andrew Joseph: What’s your wakeup ritual?
Chad Oppenheim: The morning is pretty magical and intense. After ideally 8 hours of sleep, which I try to get religiously, I wake up at 5:00 AM and exercise on the beach with a trainer as the sky transitions from darkness to light. I have breakfast with my wife and 2 kids, then race to get ready and leave the house by 7:35 AM. I drop my wife off at pilates, then the kids by 8:00 at school and then go directly to the office to get some early morning clarity before the rest of the team arrives.

Andrew: What’s your go-to bed ritual?
Chad: I try not to have dinner as I find that I sleep much more restfully if I don’t eat a few hours before bed. This means a large and celebratory lunch with my wife or friends and clients. We go for a walk with the family, then read to them, sometimes read with them, and sometimes read separately alongside them. I try to take a meditative soak in our outdoor onsen (Japanese soaking tub) with my wife and then hit the sack by 10:00 so I can get up early.

Andrew: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Chad: I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. I always carve out time for physical fitness, which I always try to do outdoors- training, surfing, spearfishing, paddle boarding, mountain biking, swimming, and kite surfing.

Andrew: What modern design trend makes you cringe?
Chad: The all too prevalent trend of arbitrarily generating architectural forms for form’s sake. Architecture needs to be more than sculpture – it needs to link to the spirit of a place.

Andrew: What’s your biggest fear in life?
Chad: Not being able to execute all my architectural dreams.


The Emiliano Hotel located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil overlooks the Copacabana beach.

Andrew: Most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?
Chad: My wife and I camped in the Australian outback with our 2-year-old son for a week.

Andrew: How would you define your work in three words?
Chad: Truthful, immersive, dramatic.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Chad: Most used is my Rick Owens washed cashmere hoodie. My favorite though is a laser-cut Yogi Yamamoto brown leather sport jacket.

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Chad: The most inspiring thing for me right now is the realization that we need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the beautiful world around us.

Andrew: Best way to take a rest/decompress?
Chad: Doing something active and an adrenaline rush in nature. Active meditation.

Andrew: Favorite place to view art?
Chad: Anything that’s embedded in the land. Love the work of James Turrell, Richard Serra, Michael Heizer.

Andrew: Best gift you’ve ever given?
Chad: All our philanthropy efforts. Right now we are involved in a lot of environmental, ocean preservation, and forest conservation efforts.


This is the headquarters of GLF located in Miami, Florida. The main goal for this construction was to build a luxury office that had large floor plates to invoke the feeling of open space.

Andrew: Least favorite color?
Chad: All synthetic colors. I prefer things to be their inherent color and not treated, as found in nature.

Andrew: A skill you’re working on mastering?
Chad: Surfing – living in Miami really helps.

Andrew: Best compliment you’ve ever received?
Chad: “I admire your passion.”

Andrew: Last piece of content you consumed that made you cry?
Chad: We watched Titanic with the kids. Even though I knew what was coming, I could not help myself.

Andrew: Are there qualities in potential clients that you identify that make you know you
have to run away.
Chad: When they want to play architect and just want us to be draftsman. We thrive with clients who trust us and love to collaborate.

Andrew: What are you most excited about at this time in your life?
Chad: Being able to create all around the world. We now have projects on 4 different continents.


About The Designer | Chad Oppenheim is a Miami-based architect whose work has been praised for its ability to transform the prosaic into the poetic. Through passion and sensitivity towards man and nature, Oppenheim creates monumental yet silent architecture that elicits a site’s inherent power.

A graduate of Cornell University and a Fellow of the AIA, Oppenheim has lectured widely and has taught at various architecture schools, including most recently at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. In 1999, he founded Oppenheim Architecture (Miami, Basel, New York), which has garnered global recognition at many scales: from large-scale urban architecture, hotels, and resorts, to private residences, interiors and furnishings. The international practice has received over 80 awards and distinctions, including the AIA’s highest distinction, the Silver Medal, and has been featured in numerous publications around the world. In 2018, Oppenheim Architecture was the recipient of one of the National Design Awards by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Oppenheim currently resides in Miami Beach with his wife and muse, Ilona, their son Hendrix and their daughter Liloo.


Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here

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