Architect Alberto J. Comas still remembers one of the earliest conversations he shared with his client Gil de Ferran, the French-born, Brazilian-grown race car driver whose meritorious victories include winning the British F3 championship, two consecutive IndyCar titles and the legendary Indy 500.
“Gil is a very smart fellow, and he’s also very particular,” Comas says. “When he first came to me he said, ‘I’d like my house to be designed just like we design an IndyCar.’”
At the time, de Ferran, who now serves as McLaren Racing’s sporting director, was residing in a palm-dotted neighborhood near Las Olas Boulevard with his British wife, Angela, and their two young children. They had purchased a canal-fronting plot less than a mile away in Las Olas Isles.
While driving around in search of his family’s first home in South Florida, de Ferran was charmed by Fort Lauderdale’s “village-y feel” and appreciated its close proximity to not one, but two, international airports (a must-have for the couple’s travel-intensive lifestyle). After six years of living overseas in the UK and two years in Indianapolis, the motorsport veteran felt like he was finally home.
Nearly 20 years later, he was ready to uproot again. This time, though, to a masterpiece of his own making. “I’d always had this dream in the back of my mind that I wanted to build my own home,” de Ferran says. “It had been maturing for several years… and I got to a point where I was like, ‘Let’s do it!’”
While he already had an architect in mind, his realtor pressed him to call Comas who’d built her home and had a reputation for designing custom residences that garnered second glances.
At their initial client-designer meeting, Comas and de Ferran connected instantly. Being an IndyCar loyalist may have scored points for the Puerto Rican architect, or it was his predilection for a particular German car manufacturer. “I’m a Porsche owner, so I‘m a fan of fast cars,” he says.
According to Comas, de Ferran, a self-described “engineer and designer wannabe,” was deeply entrenched in every aspect of the home’s design and often shared his ideas and sketches.
Comas remembers, “He would call me from the track if something had come to mind or would show up [to meetings] with thumbnails of things he’d thought of at night.”
The 10,000-square-foot structure—which features social and service areas on the first floor, bedrooms and an office on the second, and a mixed-use game room on the third—took nearly a year to design and permit, and more than three years to build.