Mr. Chatterbox

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Take back your opera. Forget the ballet. The art form of the moment in Sarasota is . . . architecture. I guess all this publicity about the Sarasota School has raised people’s consciousness to the boiling point. We really do have an architectural heritage. Plus a little army of hip young architects and designers who […]


Take back your opera. Forget the ballet. The art form of the moment in Sarasota is . . . architecture. I guess all this publicity about the Sarasota School has raised people’s consciousness to the boiling point. We really do have an architectural heritage. Plus a little army of hip young architects and designers who look so cool in their perfectly simple linen clothes and Porsche Cayennes.

The town is exploding with architecture events, but my favorite is called "10×10." Sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, it’s a chance for 10 of these hip young people to show slides of the 10 things that inspire them the most. Well, after angling for an invite to display mine for over six months now, it has gotten back to me that I am neither hip nor young enough, but you know what? I don’t care. I want to do it anyway. So here they are: the 10 things that have inspired me, that mean the most to me, that have touched my very artistic soul.

1. Catholic education: What would Western art be without the Catholic Church? All those crucifixions, those saints being drawn and quartered -catnip for any third-grade boy with behavioral problems. Above, the staff of my grade school, the perfect disciplinarians. That’s the principal in the center, Sister Mary Robespierre.

2. My dog Peanut: Isn’t it interesting how animals don’t create architecture (OK, I’ll grant you beavers), but they still use it? Above, Peanut hides under a chair.

3. Dorothy Draper: She was a big decorator back in the ’50s, and looking at pictures of her work as a child made me realize that I was somehow "different." The other kids couldn’t care less, but I would get lost in her rooms for hours, metaphorically speaking. Just look at that thing-the pierced lampshades of polished brass, the rollback sofas, the walls of crystal sconces. I guess you could say that Dorothy Draper made me what I am today.

4. The perfect trailer: Florida is full of nice old trailers but this one takes your breath away. I want one. If you have one like this, with burnished aluminum and porthole windows and the original polished oak interior, give me a call here at the magazine.

5. Lustron houses: These all-steel houses were introduced after World War II and never really caught on. Everything is metal and everything is built in-drawers, shelves, vanities. To clean your house you washed it with a hose. Sarasota’s last remaining Lustron can be found on Rose Street, just west of the trail.

6. Bird house in Pinecraft: The Amish don’t have a lot of chances to "vent" emotionally, but birdhouse building is one of them. Another is pie making. We are blessed to have them among us.

7. The Field Club: Not only an architectural masterpiece (designed by Chicago architect David Adler in the 1920s) but an inspiration to all social climbers. It’s Old WASP and Old Sarasota, and good luck getting in.

8. Siesta Royale: This high-’60s relic is about the only clue we have to what Sarasota looked like 40 years ago. I don’t know what you call this style, but I’m starting to miss it.

9. Braden Castle: This retirement community at the confluence of the Braden and Manatee Rivers defines old Florida picturesque. Tiny handmade bungalows like the one above crowd curving streets and surround the ruins of the Castle, an 1840s mansion constructed by slaves. I’d live here in a moment but they don’t take pets.

10. And finally: When all else fails there’s always the inspiration offered by the Bahi Hut. As you’re cocooned in its time warp and sipping your second Sneaky Tiki, why, it’s amazing how beautiful and interesting and inspiring everything is. 

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