On the Horizon: Streamsong Resort and Conference Center

Architect Alberto Alfonso set to deliver on a truly one-of-a-kind resort in fall 2013.

10/08/2012 By Elianne Halbersberg

Streamsong clubhouse Streamsong at sunset Streamsong partial view Streamsong lobby Streamsong dining room, Sottoterra Streamsong guestroom

With two world-class golf courses, a spa, three restaurants and a clubhouse, the Streamsong Resort and Conference Center is an opulent work in progress — a 300,000-square-foot resort housed in Polk County, Florida. The project is set to feature 216 rooms in the main lodge, 12 rooms in the 50,000-square-foot clubhouse, the finest amenities, 18,000 square feet of conference space, a swimming pool, two retail outlets, guided bass fishing, a sporting clay range, and two 18-hole golf courses designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw of Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak of Renaissance Golf Design. Alfonso Architects design firm is overseeing every inch of the clubhouse and six-story resort, from floors to ceilings. The clubhouse will open in December 2012, with the resort scheduled to open in fall 2013.

Streamsong has been a lengthy and challenging project for Alberto Alfonso, but also a very enjoyable one filled with creative latitude. Allowed input on all phases of the design by the developer, he's been  producing custom furniture, tableware and flatware in his company’s steel shop and woodshop. He is also creating paintings for the public and guest rooms, which will be displayed with poetry from his longtime collaborator, Edward Mayes. Along with the golf course designers, Alfonso Architects are bringing modernism to golf while practicing a “Zen philosophy” in terms of minimalism. “The idea is to take what the land gives and then try to be reductive in the way we think about things,” says Alberto Alfonso. “For a site like this, it’s perfect.

The concept of duality runs through the coupled golf courses, named Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue. Alfonso took that theme and used it in the interior of the clubhouse with light and dark woods. “It’s a conceptual piece of architecture,” he says, “but it does not distract from the natural setting.” The clubhouse exterior also complements the duality theme, with a stone base made of dark pietra, stained cedar grounding elements and floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the water.

The entire property encompasses 16,000 acres, of which the resort and golf courses are situated on 2,300 acres. Most of the land was mined in the 1960s, and later reclaimed, with the exception of the golf courses. Through the stock piling of sand and the course of nature, the property now features giant, vegetation-covered dunes, sand dunes, large bodies of water and natural habitat including alligators, deer, otters, and abundant varieties of birds. “You go out there and think, 'This can’t be Florida,'" says Alfonso. “There’s elevation and corridors, no buildings, and the clubhouse sits in the middle of these 100-foot-high dunes and looks down into a canyon of water. It’s pretty spectacular.”

In designing the main lodge, Alfonso continued the concept of land, reclamation and nature, with trees as his main theme. The building is oriented east/west, accentuating the curves of the natural landscape and horizon to capture magnificent Florida sunrises and sunsets.

The stretch of space, which equals the length of three football fields, features seven different types of guest rooms. Alfonso is creating customized paintings, wood and bronze artwork for each room. “We wanted every room to feel very personal, like you’re going into someone’s house, and remove the repetitive sterilization that you get in hotel buildings,” he says. Alfonso designed the couches, chairs, desks and beds, using teak for the frames and surrounding wood.

“I wanted to use the metaphor of a fallen tree, the idea of reclamation and taking something and turning it into something new and better, in designing the lodge,” he says. “I kept thinking of the idea of a tree that gets recycled. Florida used to be under water. The fossils were compressed over time and that’s why we have such large deposits of phosphate. I thought about this interesting idea about our waterline. The hotel lifts up on treelike concrete root structures underneath, and that’s where the spa and the Italian restaurant are located. As the building moves vertically, it goes from concrete to stone to wood.”

In a unique twist, Alfonso opted for 3-foot-wide, floor-to-ceiling walnut louvers in place of curtains in the rooms and along the glass facades. The louvers operate on joints that allow natural lighting control. When closed, they create the illusion of a solid wood building, again keeping with the motif of the tree.

Reclaimed wood is also the basis for the lobby. “I call it the leaf on the pond or the boat on the bank,” says Alfonzo. “It’s a leaf-shaped structure with wood floor, ceiling and walls. The idea is that it’s nestled up to the tree. It hovers over the water body. It’s a completely different feel. There are four steps leading down into the lobby, and as you step down, it’s like a dock. We wanted something rustic with a lot of character, so we have exposed ceiling beams and a real fireplace wrapped in Venetian plaster.”

Streamsong features three restaurants, a steakhouse in the clubhouse, a three-meal informal restaurant on the resort’s lobby level, and  a fine-dining Italian restaurant, on the basement level. There, the tree motif takes over with 13-foot-high, 4-foot diameter, poured concrete trunks that “grow” from the center of the floor upward through the ceiling, then flair outward to become the structural columns that move through the building.

Streamsong will feature a cylindrical rooftop bar. Using blue Venetian plaster and wood, the bar brings the metaphoric tree to the sky. “It’s one of the most incredible spaces,” says Alfonso. “There’s an oculus inside, the idea of a cube inside a cylinder. Because we aren’t near any cities, there’s no luminescence blocking out the stars, and you can get a complete view of the horizon. That was something we wanted to take advantage of.”

“We wanted to create something very special and different,” Alfonso says. “This is not a flagged resort, like a Hilton or a Hyatt, where there is a guide book that says, ‘This is the standard.’ There was no one who had already done 30 of these .The Streamsong project is a major departure from the mining and manufacturing of its owner and developer, The Mosaic Company. So in that sense, we were challenging each other, and in the end it’s going to be incredible. Coming up with a project that is an attractor in the middle of 16,000 acres has been quite an experience, but when you’re there, you really feel the history of the land and the place.”