Like a spider crouching in the sand

WGHR Poster 20x30

May 20, 2016: Docent training session at The Ringling from 9 am to 1 pm
Interested? Contact Anne Marie Bergevin,

Lido Shores Tour Day for the Cleveland Museum of Art

April 28, 2016: SAF led a tour of two important modernist homes in Lido Shores for the Cleveland Museum of Art Womens Council members. The Umbrella House was designed by architect Paul Rudolph in 1953 and restored in 2015 by Hall Architects. The Don Chapell House was designed by Don Chapell in 2000.

Zaha Hadid in Defense of Paul Rudolph

Excerpt from “Seven Leading Architects Defend the World’s Most Hated Buildings”
as told to Alexandra Lange, June 5, 2015
Read the complete article

Rudolph_Orange County Building_JeffGoldberg_Esto
Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., was already dilapidated when Hurricane Irene dealt it further damage in 2011. Since then, many have argued that, with its more than 80 roofs and scores of boxy windows, the Brutalist government building from 1970 is an eyesore and a financial drain. It is one State Supreme Court ruling away from being partly demolished. Credit Jeff Goldberg/Esto


“The 1960s were a remarkable moment of social reform. The ideas of change, liberation and freedom were critical. Now people think public buildings should be more flowery, but these were times when people did tough projects. The complex is arranged as a sequence of interconnected indoor and outdoor public spaces that flow into each other. There is an integrity within the design that displays a commitment to engagement and connectivity. As a center for civic governance, it enacted democracy through spatial integration, not through the separation of elected representatives from their constituents. Many similar projects around the world have also suffered neglect; yet sensitive renovation and new programming reveal a profound lightness and generosity, creating exciting and popular spaces where people can connect. Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is.”

Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world today. She died suddenly at the age of 65 on March 31, 2016.

Paul Rudolph’s Knock-Up Masterpiece

By Mark Lamster
The Design Observer

March 29, 2011

Paul Rudolph’s mid-modern masterpiece on the Sanibel beach.

Take a ride down Sanibel Island’s West Gulf Drive and you will find, lining its exclusive beachfront, one McMansion after the next, a palisade of Classical, Victorian, and Spanish Colonials with multi-car garages set behind landscaped gates. There is but one exception: Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House, a simple wood-frame box built in the early 1950s, when Sanibel was a remote island redoubt accessible only by boat, and a stay on its beach occasioned no great ceremony or ostentation.

walker guest house_mark lamster 3-29-11

Walker Guest House on Sanibel Beach, © 2011 Mark Lamster

The beige house, perched on short stilts and tucked in the vegetation, could easily pass for a shed belonging to one of its neighbors. Unlike those behemoths, it is closer to the road than the beach, protected behind a shrub-covered dune. It may not look particularly sturdy in comparison to those much larger houses, but thanks to its judicious siting it has survived a series of destructive hurricanes. In plan it is square, with each side divided into three sections. One of these sections is glazed, the other two have panels that can be raised by a rope-and-counterweight system so that the entire house is open to the elements. When they are up, the panels serve also as a shade-giving lanai. The compact interior design and the pulley system betray Rudolph’s wartime experience in the navy.

The obvious precedent for the house is Mies’s Farnsworth House, but I’d say it is just as much a progeny of Philip Johnson’s Glass House (itself a child of the Farnsworth). Johnson and Rudolph were good friends, close since their days studying architecture at Harvard. Johnson visited Rudolph in Sarasota not long after this house was completed. Like the Glass House, it is classical in its symmetry, with the box-frame forming a kind of diagrammatic, low-end peristyle. The whole thing was built with off-the-rack parts on a tight budget. In this it is the antithesis of the very effete Glass House, but it shares the idea of creating a space open to nature in every direction.

It would be nice if this and other modest vacation houses of the same spirit (Andew Geller’s wonderful beach houses come to mind) were a precedent for more of today’s clients. On Sanibel, there are unfortunately few examples of the kind of project you’d find in illustrated in a magazine like Dwell. That is to say, relatively modest (to the extent that a vacation house can be), environmentally sensitive homes built with a modern sensibility.

For more on the Walker beach house and Rudolph’s other wonderful Sarasota work, Christopher Domin and Joseph King’s Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses is indispensable.

Editor’s note: The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) built a replica of the Walker Guest House on the grounds of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL. The house and grounds are free and open daily, 10am to 5pm, with SAF’s docent-led tours. Over 22,000 visitors have toured the house since opening in November 2015 for the SarasotaMOD Architecture Festival.
Walker Guest House Replica

Walker Guest House Replica, The Ringling, Sarasota FL, Architect: Paul Rudolph (1952), ©2016 Esto/Anton Grassl



Gray Matters More Than Ever


Join SAF for the Sarasota premier of “Gray Matters”, the award-winning documentary examining the extraordinary life of Eileen Gray, architect, interior designer and furniture designer. The film is an historical, scholarly and cinematic investigation of the career of one of the most influential modernist icons.

Special Guest Speaker: Dr. Chelsea Bruner, Interior Design Historian, Ringling College of Art + Design
Popcorn courtesy of Brad Battersby, Film Department Head, Ringling College of Art + Design

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
5:30 pm
Ringling College of Art + Design
Academic Center Auditorium
2699 Old Bradenton Road, Sarasota, FL 34234

SAF Members $10
Public $15
Please RSVP: Ringling College Students and Staff Free, with ID

Buy Tickets Online

Questions: 941-364-2199 or
Click to download the Ringling College Campus Map.

New Sarasota School Modernism

The following article by  Heather Corcoran with photos by Joshua McHugh, appeared in the February 2016 issue of Dwell Magazine. Congratulations to Sarasota FL homeowners and SAF members, John Pirman and Steve Tetreault, and architect Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects for an outstandingly fabulous project!

Pirman Tetreault House_photo_Joshua McHugh_Dwell

This Sparkling New Home Is a Perfect Remake of Classic Sarasota School Modernism

In a modernist seaside enclave, a couple calls in a pioneering architecture firm to build a new house rooted in midcentury style.

There’s more to Sarasota, Florida, than warm waters and white-sand beaches. The city also lures design lovers with its wealth of low-slung glass pavilions created by Paul Rudolph and the architects of the Sarasota School in the construction boom that followed World War II.

When hairstylist Steve Tetreault and illustrator John Pirman set out to build in Sarasota, they were well acquainted with Rudolph’s work. Tetreault owned a beach house by the architect, purchased some 30 years earlier on Siesta Key.

Over time, the 950-square-foot retreat began to feel cramped as its role shifted to a full-time residence for two. So, in 2008, Tetreault and Pirman called upon Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects—a firm opened in 1955 by Edward Seibert, who got his start working for Rudolph—to build a contemporary house in the modern style. But a half-century’s worth of building-code updates presented a new challenge: balancing midcentury aesthetics with today’s safety guidelines.

Steve Tetreault: Looking to the future, we decided it might be nice to build a modern home. The economy was in the tank, land was cheap, and builders were dying to do stuff. This neighborhood was established by John Ringling in the late 1920s, and empty lots are rarely available. But there was a house that burned down, so we were able to buy a long, skinny lot that nobody really wanted. Then we went to find one of the original Sarasota School architects left in town to design the house for us. The style originated with them, so they’re totally in sync with our thinking.

John Pirman: They used a lot of the concepts and proportions from the 1950s to build this house.

Tetreault: Our first meeting, we had a few specific things in mind. We have an art collection that we wanted to hang on walls. John needed to have a studio to work in, and it was important to me to have a place to just get away and be quiet. So the architect put John’s studio up front, and the master bedroom is at the opposite end of this long house.

Pirman: It’s pretty bare bones in its basic materials: concrete, steel, and glass. No frills, no adornments. The glazing systems are all storefront windows. The whole roofing system is a commercial application that you might find in an elementary school. They’re not necessarily that much less expensive than standard materials, but the labor costs are much lower.

Tetreault: The original modernists were using materials that came off the shelf. We thought if it was good for them then, it’s good for us now. The only trick about this is the application has to be done perfectly. Since there’s nothing decorative covering up seams or anything like that, it has to be done by a craftsman who knows what he’s doing.

Pirman: The house has a lot of integrity, because it’s Michael Epstein’s   vision and he followed through. Every last corner detail was drawn on the paper. It drove the builders crazy, because they always wanted to cover something or change something. We all know that change orders equal dollars.

Tetreault: We pretty much stuck to the plan. And I’m really happy we did.

Pirman: Michael shared our aesthetic; he understood it. We worked intimately with him, but they were all his ideas. He listened to us, and we listened to him. That’s what I think made this house successful. It was a team effort.

Tetreault: The difference between building in 1948 and building today has to do with codes. What they were able to get away with, which we aesthetically like so much—sliding glass doors with very minimal frames around them, and low, flat roofs—you would never be able to get away with now. The challenge then is to design something that gives us a lot of those ideas but still complies with today’s codes. The benefit of today is that my little Paul Rudolph beach house cost more to air-condition than this new house does—it was 950 square feet, and this is 2,500 square feet. The differences are this is insulated, the glass is all low-E glass, and the HVAC systems are so much better than they were then—they’re more efficient, and they cost less to operate.

Pirman: Building the house was a roller-coaster ride. Now living here, it’s completely changed my life. I think this is the best thing that I’ve ever done.

– See more at:

SAF 2015 in review

Sarasota Architecture Matters

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for SAF’s blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.