Palmetto Bay architect’s pet project earns awards

By Connie Crowther….

Roney Mateu is pictured outside the now world-famous Best Friends luxury pet hotel at Disney World.

When popular, award-winning architect Roney Mateu, AIA, attended the Sept. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony of the now world-famous Best Friends luxury pet hotel at Disney World in Orlando, he was much more than just an interested onlooker.
Mateu, principal of Mateu Architecture in Palmetto Bay, actually designed the facility, which has been featured in more than 250,000 online, on-air and published reports around the world in the past few weeks.
It’s been an excellent month for Mateu, who also learned that the firm once again has been recognized with two Design Excellence Awards, (from more than 260 entries this year) in the annual awards program of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects (FA/AIA). The awards were given during the annual FA/AIA convention in late August in Ponte Vedra.
The awards program jury for the FA/AIA design awards competition was chaired by Kirsten Murray, AIA, of Olson Kundig Architects, Seattle, WA, who were the winners of the 2009 National AIA Firm of the Year Award.
The Best Friends one-of-a-kind pet resort at Disney World offers 17,000 square feet of air-conditioned indoor space, 10,000 square feet of covered outdoor runs and play areas, and a 25,000-square-foot dog park exclusively for the use of the Best Friends clients and their owners. The pet hotel was booked fully for Labor Day weekend, accommodating as many as 300 pets for both daytime and overnight boarding while their owners explore Disney World and other Orlando attractions. Dogs stay in suites ranging from 32 to 226 square feet, and have raised bedding, flat screen televisions and some have a private outdoor yard. Cats spend their visit in the separate Kitty City, away from the dogs, in two- and four-room condos. There also is a special area for the boarding of pocket pets, small mammals and  birds.
“This was a very fun and complicated project,” Mateu said.
The Best Friends pet hotel was featured in more than a quarter of a million print, broadcast and online stories and mentions worldwide within a few days of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
In the AIA Florida Design Awards competition, Mateu’s Casa Grove I was one of only three projects selected to receive the Honor Award of Excellence for New Work, from more than 150 submitted in the category.
Located on a busily traveled Coconut Grove traffic corridor, Casa Grove I’s courtyard design solution allows for the living spaces to be buffered from the street by the front structure that contains a garage and a bedroom/studio/office above. The entry sequence is such that the side setback is used as a filter/gate to the house, and deliberately extends the arrival sequence, making this house, on a 40-foot-wide lot, appear and feel larger than it is.
The jury singled out Casa Grove I for “being respectful of existing vegetation and providing a modestly scaled insertion into the neighborhood. The landscape is treated as a figural element in the site composition. The use of materials is clean, elegant and minimal. Materials such as metal decking are employed effectively without creating an overly ‘industrial’ aesthetic statement. The house feels both protected from the sun and light filled.”
Casa Orquidea was one of seven projects selected to receive the Merit Award of Excellence for New Work.
Located in the central area of Coconut Grove and surrounded by multi-family structures, this young couple committed to a more sustainable lifestyle, by building their dream home in a location where they could walk to work, play and entertainment, while incorporating sustainable and energy saving strategies in their sculptured home, occupying three levels (including a rare basement level for auto storage), all in a 50-foot wide by 150-foot deep lot.
The jury commented, “This house is obviously well designed and executed throughout, while the house and site feel like a cool oasis.”
Recent and current design work for Mateu Architecture, other than the Best Friends pet hotel in Disney World and the award-winning homes, includes the Palley Glass Pavilion at the Lowe Art Museum (completed) and the new Basketball Practice Facility Fieldhouse at the University of Miami, (completed), the Little Manatee Migrant Worker Housing in Ruskin, FL, (recently completed), The Steven E. Chaykin Elderly Housing Project, South Miami Beach (under construction), and several custom homes and corporate offices in design and construction.
For information about and images of other Mateu Architecture projects, visit the website at

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