MetWest International is a retail center that sits in front of MetLife’s mixed-use campus in Tampa, Fla.’s Westshore business district. The design goal for api(+) on the project was to create a plan that unifies the site’s existing and proposed buildings and provide a fresh take on tropical retail architecture.

The design needed to accommodate a variety of yet to be defined restaurant and retail tenants, making flexibility in storefront design critical. The firm’s modularized approach to the column bays and storefront segmentation allows the entry doors to be moved wherever needed with a minimum of modifications.

Because the site is surrounded by many retail developments, including Tampa Bay’s premier shopping center International Plaza, MetWest had to command attention while fitting within its mixed-use campus setting. To achieve this goal, api(+)’s design includes overtly dramatic architectural forms tempered with a rich Earth-tone palette of materials and finishes.

The site included 100-year-old oaks that needed to be built around, while still providing enough square footage for a successful retail site. As a result, the center is positioned in a way that allowed it be built without disrupting the trees. The trees, in turn, served as inspiration for the branch-like columns supporting various canopy elements featured at exterior dining verandahs. That is complemented with large expanses of horizontally oriented glass, louvered sunscreens, and up-lifted canopies with expressive steel support columns.

Parking requirements for this mostly commuter-based project were coupled with the desire to make the shopping and entertainment development pedestrian friendly, resulting in a site plan that sequesters parking within the buildings. The design team addressed these demands by articulating all elevations resulting in 360 degree architecture.

The resulting buildings feature contrasts in materials, scale and opacity, creating shadow patterns on the project’s varied surfaces. Integrated architectural lighting, landscaping and pedestrian amenities combine to create an environment that is constantly in change and encourages gathering, strolling, social interaction and repeat visits.

While overtly modern, the warm subdued materials and finishes provide an approachable design signature accommodating the variety of retail and hospitality tenants and patrons and supporting leasing objectives.

Project Name: MetWest International
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Square Footage: 77,000 square feet
Architects: api(+)
Owner: Taylor & Mathis of Florida LLC
General Contractor: Skanska
Civil Engineer: WilsonMiller
Structural Engineer: TRC Worldwide Civil Engineering
MEP Engineer: Colwill Engineering
Steel: E & H Steel Corp.
Concrete: Cocoa Masonry of Pinellas County
Stone and Tile: Designer Marble and Granite
Storefront: Mullets Aluminum