Modern Love

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New owners have often ruined Sarasota School houses by expansion. An exception: the Rudolph-designed Burkhardt/Cohen House on Casey Key, renovated by Toshiko Mori. The new guest house, raised 17 feet above sea level, connects to the original 1957 Rudolph house via an exterior stainless steel staircase, which becomes the new center of the house, connecting […]


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New owners have often ruined Sarasota School houses by expansion. An exception: the Rudolph-designed Burkhardt/Cohen House on Casey Key, renovated by Toshiko Mori. The new guest house, raised 17 feet above sea level, connects to the original 1957 Rudolph house via an exterior stainless steel staircase, which becomes the new center of the house, connecting and separating activities within. The home is in the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, which identifies the world’s 1,000 most important buildings.

Built by Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph beginning in 1948, the Cocoon house (aka the Healy guest house) is actually more experiment than house, made from wood with steel straps and a vinyl compound Rudolph saw on ships while he was in the Navy. The jalousied walls created a transparency similar to Philip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan. The inverse roof has an Asian quality; imagine the Buddha-like peacefulness when this cottage was one of the few along Bayou Louise on Siesta Key.

Tim Seibert’s clear concept, meticulous detail, and workmanship with ordinary materials distinguish the Cooney house, which was built on a 50-foot lot on St. Armands Key. The pavilion living area, with its 10-foot ceiling and full-height glass walls, offers visual extension to the outdoors. The rest of the house turns inward, providing more intimate spaces. Winner of the 2001 Test of Time Award from the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

If one man drove the design renaissance of Sarasota in the ’50s and ’60s, it was Philip Hiss, whose Lido Shores development helped put the city on the map. The Gropius-influenced Hiss Studio was the first building facing Westway Drive and the project architect was a young Tim Seibert; a major addition was later designed by Bert Brosmith. The nearby Hiss residence was torn down, but the studio, restored by Heather Chapell, remains one of the finest mid-century modern houses in Florida.

One of Sarasota’s oldest residential towers happens also to be one of the best. On 16 acres at the gateway to St. Armands, Plymouth Harbor offers a magnificent panorama of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Project architect Frank Folsom Smith and his team designed the 28-story, 350 unit-tower in a colony system, which helped to create a social atmosphere as well. It won the 1966 FAIA Honor Award and the Florida AIA’s Test of Time Award in 1991.

Great architects need great clients, and that’s what Carl Abbott got when artist Florence Putterman and her husband, Saul, asked him to design their Lido Shores home. With his trademark asymmetrical L shapes, the Putterman home uses nature and light to their fullest. In its monolithic façade, one can see the influence of Abbott’s former Yale professor Louis Kahn, but his tutelage under Paul Rudolph shows in the glass facades facing the bayside.

Architects dream of projects that last years and are built in phases. Carl Abbott is now adding to a 20-year-plus project at St. Thomas More Church in Gulf Gate. The church buildings sit on a pine-forested site, with a majestic 1,000-seat main church opening to a courtyard for reflection. The new Parish Center, a curved glass-walled gathering center, was inspired by the spirit of Vatican II, and the third phase, breaking ground this year, promises to be the project’s crowning glory.

The work of Jack West, the only practicing member of the original Sarasota School, ranges from beach pavilions to private residences to his masterwork, downtown’s Sarasota City Hall, completed in 1965. The multi-level structure mixes a wood façade and extensive interior glass and exhibits West’s adept site planning in the way he set the building back from the street with interior and exterior courtyard with broad overhangs to maximize shade.

Guy Petersen designed the Critical Care Center of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, one of the most visible and visited buildings in town, in 1992, while part of Johnson/Petersen Architects in Tallahassee. During the project, the Sarasota native decided to come back home, where he started his own firm and became the first native Floridian elected a Fellow of the AIA. The center brought the hospital’s most advanced medical services into one state-of-the-art building. It also sparked a contemporary building boom for medical offices.

Tampa-based Albert Alfonso created the AIA award-winning building of 2003 Phototech, which, in addition to housing owner Peter Turo’s photography business, contains a private museum of vintage cameras and art. The 25,000-square-foot building on Fruitville Road utilizes an open space plan for production and public areas, which require an abundance of natural light. The two-story glass façade has a linear quality and is set back deep into the natural arbors surrounding the building.