Designs for Living

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Given Sarasota’s history of daring architecture, it seemed natural for the Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to resume its commitment to annually recognizing the exemplary architectural achievements of its nearly 150 members. So earlier this winter, for the first time in five years, the group organized a competition to select […]


Given Sarasota’s history of daring architecture, it seemed natural for the Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to resume its commitment to annually recognizing the exemplary architectural achievements of its nearly 150 members. So earlier this winter, for the first time in five years, the group organized a competition to select award-winning projects.

Thanks to the diligence of the Gulf Coast Chapter AIA Design Committee, chaired by James Bowen, the chapter issued a call to architects, assembled a national jury and invited members and guests to a gala ceremony in February where Bowen surprised winners with their prizes. The competition drew 41 entries from 18 area firms. Applicants were invited to submit projects in categories that included theoretical, unbuilt, general, residential, urban, and interiors projects.

Distinguished Los Angeles architect Annie Chu chaired the four-member jury of AIA professionals who conducted the blind judging. She was also the keynote speaker at the awards dinner. Working with Chu were architects Monica Ponce De Leon of Boston and Nanako Umemoto of New York City, and Los Angeles author and photographer Michael Webb. "Our first decision was to determine if we would evaluate by regional standards or hold the entrants to more rigorous national standards," says Chu. "After considering the work presented to us, it became clear that we would judge by national standards."

More than awarding prizes for outstanding projects, the aim of this design awards program is to advance the profession, raise public awareness and encourage discussion about the high caliber and progressive nature of architectural enterprise flourishing in this part of Florida. Here are the 2004 winners.

Honor Award: Seibert Architects, PA

Samuel C. Holladay and Michael Epstein

Un-built category: Addition to Barron Residence

The architects’ determination was to save a historically designated, Sarasota School of Architecture residence from being demolished by a future owner because of its small size and the value and desirability of its waterfront setting.

The existing house is exemplary for its connection to the exterior views, creating a seamless transition from inside to outside. The architects’ proposed addition, a structurally detached second floor, maintains the home’s openness and does not obscure any part of the existing structure. And it makes minimal contact with existing historical materials.

The judges were impressed by the firm’s approach to a dilemma that has become common, as cities continue to evolve and the old is torn down to make way for new structures with amenities not envisioned when these homes were originally constructed.

"We found this project a bold and sensitive answer to the challenge," says judge Chu. "It is crucial that architects offer the leadership to show examples of sensitive additions and appropriate transformations of the Sarasota School design language. This addition takes advantage of the best qualities of the site and leaves the building, overall, in a stronger state than when it was found."

Merit Award: Guy Peterson/OFA Inc.

Guy Peterson, FAIA

Residential category: Williams house

The Williams house is located in Lido Shores, a neighborhood nationally known for its architectural heritage because of its impressive collection of Sarasota School homes.

Guy Peterson, who grew up in Sarasota and was inspired to become an architect because of what he saw around him, was well aware of Lido Shores’ pedigree when he designed this 4,500-square foot home for a progressive couple. They wanted privacy, a strong indoor-outdoor connection, minimal maintenance, a swimming pool and a second level for guest quarters. Finally, they wanted everything cloaked in sophisticated but quiet "Florida Modern" architecture to express their artistic sensibilities. A huge challenge-and the single feature that defined the project-was their narrow 80-foot-wide lot on New Pass.

The resulting residence, judged outstanding by Annie Chu and her team, is everything the clients wanted. "We appreciated the control of the design language which resulted in a resolved massing of volumes," explains Chu. "The house takes advantage of the climate, and the front elevation is sculpted and resolved. It capitalizes on the expanse of uninterrupted walls punctuated by vertical palms, a singular seat-height wall and thin horizontal roofs beyond."

Merit Award: Javi Suarez, Associate AIA, ADP Group

Theoretical category: Unbuilt residence

This house, which the 31-year-old architect conceived as a possible home and office for himself, is all about using technology advancements in materials and computing to improve and enliven the ways one can live and work. He even placed the house (theoretically, of course) on Fourth Street and Osprey Avenue.

The structural system is composed of cast-fiber thermoplastic compounds and a sheathing system of carbon reinforced plywood panels-lighter and stronger than concrete and steel. And the use of a wireless system and flat-screen monitors throughout the rooms mean that a private living environment and a public work place are now joined. Truly, this is the realm of a young and ambitious 21st-century artist/entrepreneur intrigued by technical investigation.

The jury was impressed by Suarez’s reach for a design that could exploit evolving building materials made possible by advanced technology. They enjoyed the exuberance of the project and its pleasure in how scientific innovations can enhance ways we live and work. Judge Chu remarks that "the jury would like to encourage this and similar projects which explore the impact of new technology on architecture and landscape."

Merit Award: Guy Peterson/OFA, Inc.

Guy Peterson, FAIA

Residential category: Restoration and addition to the Revere house

The formidable task was to restore and preserve a 1948 Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph residence on Siesta Key. Peterson approached it by designing an addition that is actually a whole new house to serve as the principal residence. "Because of the Revere house’s small size-less than 1,000 square feet-the purchase of this property and its restoration only becomes financially feasible if a larger home is constructed in conjunction with this house to justify the cost of the waterfront property it sits on," Peterson explains.

The judges couldn’t agree more; and while they respected the crisp, modestly scaled original structure, they realized that in many cases the only way that past architectural gems can be saved is to make them viable in today’s market that demands larger rooms, higher ceilings and more amenities. Annie Chu, speaking for the jury, says they were impressed by the "balance between integration with the old and the autonomy of the new."

The new house is independent of the Revere house and is almost twice its size. A swimming pool is being added. The original Revere house will serve as a pool cabana and guesthouse in the master plan. The judges believe "this project demonstrates how it is possible to resolve the tensions between preservation and development." Thus, an architectural model of 20th-century Florida living survives, inspires and shines in the 21st century.

Merit Award: Christine Desirée, Inc.

Christine Desirée, ASID/NCIDQ, Allied AIA

Category: Interiors

The project is Christine Desirée’s own office space of 1,400 square feet located in historic Burns Court in downtown Sarasota. Desirée is both an interior design professional and a designer of modern custom furniture.

Her project team set out to create a serene office space that would invigorate and motivate creativity and support teamwork. Bisecting architectural elements are used to define spatial boundaries within the open floor plan while sliding translucent glass walls provide privacy for conferences. A suspended monolithic drywall cube housing the HVAC had to be incorporated into the design.

A concealed zebra-wood pivot wall provides passage to the conference room from the reception area. Modern classic furniture was selected to complement the designer’s own furniture line, which is exhibited in the office. The floors are natural-finish bamboo.

The judges admired Desirée’s clean, restrained approach, which allowed the relatively small area to expand in spaciousness. "The design language is direct and all the details were well executed," praises Annie Chu. "The articulation of the drywall ceiling planes contributes tremendously to the variation of volumes, and the use of the drywall finish offers an abstract backdrop to frame vignettes of material appreciation."

Gulf Coast Chapter Honor Awards

Honor awards are presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the practice of architecture or the efforts of the chapter. These awards are especially significant in recognizing those outside the profession. The Gulf Coast Chapter of AIA celebrates the following 2004 recipients: Brad Gaubatz, AIA, Studio 7 Architecture; Martie Lieberman, Sarasota Architectural Foundation; James and Anastasia Bowen, Bowen Architecture; Andy Eggebrecht, AE Design Group; Tom Luzier, Sarasota Architectural Foundation; John Howey, FAIA, author; Harold Bubil, Sarasota Herald-Tribune real estate editor; and Dale Parks, AIA, Seibert Architects.