Sarasota Architectural Foundation Advocates for Sarasota’s Modern Buildings

by Nick Reichert, Observer Arts & Entertainment Editor
nreichert@yourobserver.com

Though Sarasota seems to be in a state of constant development, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation seeks to preserve and honor its historic modern homes.
SAF Advocates_Minker_Snyder_byReichert

Janet Minker and Dan Snyder in front of the Paul Rudolph-designed Umbrella House. Photo by Nick Reichert.

It all started with a phone call. In March, Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of the Ringling College of Art and Design, left a message with the board of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF). He said the pedestrian canopy adjacent to the historic Sarasota High School, which was in the process of construction for the college’s new Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA, would be demolished to make room for construction equipment. The canopy, which runs from the foot of the historic Sarasota High School to the middle of the campus of the current high school, isn’t your normal walkway — it was designed by mid-century modern architect Paul Rudolph. And, for SAF, that made all the difference.

Members of SAF’s board of directors, including Chairwoman Janet Minker and Dan Snyder, contacted their approximately 300 members and thousands of social media connections and sister organizations, such as Docomomo International (a European nonprofit dedicated to preserving modern-designed buildings) with a call to action: email Thompson or call his office. That spurred a wave of correspondence along with a protest by SAF members in front of the canopy. After discussion between Ringling and SAF, the canopy was saved and will serve as a part of the future of SMOA’s design.

“If you want to save buildings and other structures, you can’t do that unless people are aware of them and understand their value,” says Snyder. “We need to always create awareness and appreciation so that way if we need to save something like we did with the canopy, we have this body support.”

SAF and Ringling College remain on good terms, despite the incident. In fact, later that same week in March Thompson called Minker for a favor. He asked if she could give six art college presidents, who were visiting Sarasota for a conference, a tour of the Rudolph-designed buildings throughout Sarasota. Minker acquiesced, but what was originally six turned into a bus load of 20 college presidents, all of them ready to devour Sarasota’s plentiful examples of modern design.

SAF_Dan_Janet_Reichert article

Snyder and Minker help lead tours, talks and events dedicated to Sarasota’s style of modern design. Photo by Nick Reichert.

Modern movement

SAF seeks to preserve the Bauhaus-inspired structures built in the area in the 1940s to 1960s. The Sarasota School of Architecture, founded by Ralph Twitchell, counts among its scions as Rudolph,  Edward “Tim” Seibert, Phillip Hiss and Carl Abbott, among others. What makes Sarasota’s take on modernism unique is its incorporation of Southern architecture, such as patios, verandas and modular construction to allow for greater ventilation in the pre-air conditioning days. The style allowed for a play of light and shadow and softened the typical hard lines of the Bauhaus. The designs blurred the line between the indoors and outdoors, allowing each structure to blend in seamlessly with the Florida lifestyle.

The almost 300 members of SAF don’t just support modern design — they surround themselves with it. Both Minker and Snyder have extensive careers in design. Minker still works in graphic design, and Snyder, now retired, designed the iconic nutritional food pyramid that has been plastered on public school walls for decades.

The Lido Shores neighborhood in Sarasota plays host to modern residences with names such as the Umbrella House, Hiss Studio and the Martin Harkavy House that have been designed by influential mid-century architects such as Rudolph and his contemporaries.

Minker, who lives just down the street from many of the houses of which she gives tours, lives in a modern-designed, all-white house created by contemporary architect Jonathan Parks. Her walls and shelf space are dominated by modern art (a giant tapestry photograph of the model Kate Moss holds court in the living room) and books on Sarasota’s architectural history. Minker’s house is a recent addition to Lido Shores’ constellation of modern residences.

The Umbrella House (1300 Westway Drive) could be the face of the SAF. Built in 1953 and designed by Rudolph, it kicked off real estate developer Hiss’ mission to make Sarasota a modern getaway and destination for people to vacation and live. The two-bedroom home is a cube designed to feel open to Sarasota’s sun and breezes. The interior is a love letter to modern ideas of design with an emphasis on unorthodox arrangement and prolific use of lines. The dresser is built into an office wall and goes through that wall and becomes a table in the living room. The hearth and fireplace is a step down from the rest of the living room to encourage comfort and sitting. And, out back, though the titular umbrella (a sun canopy that extends from the roof to the backyard over the swimming pool) is no longer there, photos show a rectangular umbrella awning that leaves space open for the perimeter of the swimming pool just below it.

“I’m passionate about these buildings because I grew up in the 1950s, and it was a time when the war was over and people were optimistic about the future,” Snyder says. “Aesthetically, I think the people who walk into these houses feel like it was designed last week. It’s not at all what you think a Florida home will look like. It’s crisp and very cool. It’s timeless.”

Walker Guest House Replica_Snyder

Exterior of the almost complete Walker Guest House replica, whose grand opening is during SarasotaMOD Weekend, Nov. 6 through 8. The house will be exhibited on The Ringling Museum’s grounds through October 2016. Photo by Dan Snyder.

Preservation promotion

SAF’s roots can be traced to a symposium conducted almost 15 years ago. It was an offshoot of a five-day symposium in 2001 on Sarasota’s modern build aesthetic. Titled “An American Legacy: The Sarasota School of Architecture Tour and Symposium,” the design-driven event, sponsored by the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, included lectures, bus and boat tours, a documentary screening, exhibitions and dinner and receptions. An estimated 1,000 design professionals and design-lovers attended the event. From the success of that event, Minker says design aficionados Martie Lieberman and Thomas Luzier helped form the nonprofit organization to continue the mission of the weeklong symposium. And even though Lieberman and Luzier are no longer a part of SAF’s leadership, board members actively fulfill their mission: preserve Sarasota’s midcentury modern homes for future generations.

And, now, Minker and Snyder along with their five other members and advisory board of registered or retired local architects organize several tours, meetings, seminars and social events that celebrate the love of Sarasota’s modern architectural heritage. The culmination is SAF’s own architectural and design summit: SarasotaMOD Weekend.

The piece de resistance at this year’s MOD weekend in November will be a home of SAF’s own. The organization found that many visitors wanted to see all of the mid-century buildings in Sarasota but many are private residences. So, the board decided to build a recreation of Rudolph’s Walker Guest House, known as the “Cannonball House,” built in 1952 in Sanibel. Constructed by architect Joe King, with Old Cypress Construction, the home is built in convertible pieces on King Ranch in Bradenton. King’s team of four started in March and are just now adding the final touches. Once completed the home will be disassembled and stored until the MOD festival, where it will be on display just behind the Searing Wing of The John and Mable Ringling Art Museum on the grounds of The Ringling. The exact replica (built at an estimated cost of $200,000) will also include modern furniture and magazines from the 1950s to give visitors and Rudolph-files an almost Disney-esque experience. Admission into the guest house will be free.

SAF plans to turn the model home into a traveling show at museums and festivals around the country, including the Walker Art Center, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and Art Basel Miami. The organization hopes that the house, the largest project it has undertaken in scope and finances, will inspire design- and art-lovers not only in Sarasota but also around the country.

“SAF is a connector for like-minded people,” says Minker. “A lot of these people were VIPs in their own communities and they came here to retire and that wasn’t just to play golf. Our members are passionate, curious, knowledgeable and educated, and Sarasota is so lucky to have this constant influx of new people coming in bringing new ideas and resources.”

Architectural Safari

One of the numerous roles that the Sarasota Architectural Foundation plays is tour guide to architecture-loving tourists. Though most of the modern-designed buildings are private property and closed to the public, there are a few that are public or whose owners are active members of SAF. Visit http://www.yourobserver.com/article/sarasota-architectural-foundation-advocates-sarasotas-modern-buildings.

IF YOU GO
SarasotaMOD Weekend

When: Nov. 6 through 9
Where: The Ringling, 5401 Bay Shore Road
Tickets: Available online August 14, 2015
Info: Call 364-2199 or visit sarasotamod.com

SarasotaMod Weekend Nov. 6 – 9

Umbrella House

The Umbrella House in Lido Shores, designed by architect Paul Rudolph in 1953. Photo by Bill Miller.

Sarasota High School

Sarasota High School designed by architect Paul Rudolph in 1958 and restored by the Sarasota School Board in 2015. Photo by Dan Snyder.

July 17, 2015
By Harold Bubil
harold.bubil@heraldtribune.com

It will be “all Paul, all the time” at the second SarasotaMOD, Sarasota Architectural Foundation’s celebration of midcentury modern architecture.

The focus of the Nov. 6-9 event is the architectural legacy of Paul Rudolph, who started his career here and designed such notable buildings as the Umbrella House, Riverview High School and an addition to Sarasota High School, all in the 1950s, before becoming dean of architecture at Yale University and expanding his influence globally.

Rudolph will be the subject of lectures, dinners, parties and tours on foot and by trolley.

Walker Guest House Replica

A replica of the 1952 Paul Rudolph designed Walker Guest House will be featured at SarasotaMOD Weekend. Illustration by John Pirman.

The highlight of the weekend is the opening of the Walker Guest House replica on the grounds of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. SAF, with the help of architect Joyce Owens of Fort Myers and builder-architect Joe King of Bradenton, has constructed a replica of Rudolph’s famous 1952 Sanibel Island beach cottage. It will be displayed for 11 months at The Ringling, and can be disassembled and shipped to other museums as an educational exhibit on midcentury living and design concepts.

Notable speakers include Los Angeles architect Larry Scarpa and Rudolph scholars and authors Joe King, Christopher Domin, Roberto de Alba and Timothy Rohan; the latter wrote a definitive book on Rudolph in 2014, “The Architecture of Paul Rudolph”. Also speaking is Erica Stoller, daughter of Ezra Stoller, whose large format, black- and- white photographs of Rudolph’s buildings in the 1950s brought both men worldwide acclaim.

SarasotaMOD_logo draftsC. Ford Peatross, founding director of the architectural archive at the Library of Congress, will moderate a panel discussion on Rudolph’s legacy. While the architect is known for his delicate beach houses on Lido and Siesta keys, he also was a leader in the use of raw concrete to monumental effect in public buildings,starting with Sarasota High, continuing with the Yale Art & Architecture building, and continuing in Southeast Asia with high rise residential buildings. This style is known as Brutalism.

Several houses designed by Rudolph will be open for dinners and cocktail parties. Walking tours of Lido Shores, where Rudolph drew a number of houses for developer Phil Hiss, will be conducted by Christopher Wilson, Architecture and Design History professor at Ringling College and SAF board member, and the Herald-Tribune’s Harold Bubil.

The event closes on Monday, Nov. 9, with a bus tour of St. Petersburg’s architectural highlights, led by Bubil. Other presenters include Sarasota architect Carl Abbott, Tampa architect and author of “The Sarasota School of Architecture” John Howey, architect Tim Seibert, Sean Khorsandi of the Paul Rudolph Foundation and Miami Herald architecture critic Alastair Gordon.

“It will be important to talk about architecture as an art form,” said King. “Rudolph’s work, as a leader in Sarasota modernism, is so strong that people will gain a good feeling of that. The cultural and historical context of Rudolph in Florida will help people, especially in Sarasota, know and understand more about the place they live, and that is always a good thing — to be engaged with the community.”

Tickets go on sale August 14 at SarasotaMod.com.

A SPIDER IN THE SAND, Paul Rudolph’s Antidote to Cold War Paranoia

Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF):

This is a great article by Alastair Gordon, architecture critic for the Miami Herald and editor for the Wall Street Journal! The official opening of the Walker Guest House replica @ The Ringling Museum is November 6, 2015 during SAF’s SarasotaMOD Weekend.

Originally posted on Alastair Gordon:

****©Ezra Stoller_ESTO_WalkerGuestHouse

I set out on my auspicious little outing to Sanibel Island, driving across the lower instep of Florida, marshy light deflecting off the windshield, sheet-flow expanding incrementally as the car moves westward along the pencil-straight line of Route 75, otherwise known as ‘Alligator Alley’ (although I never spot a single gator along the way), past fences and swales and empty parking lots, the sky turning milky and oddly rippled with altocumulus clouds, sucking up moisture from the shallows of the Everglades.

I’m going to visit the Walker Guest House, Paul Rudolph’s little beach-house gem, built in 1952, just after Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House opened in New York City and the nightmarish “Tumbler-Snapper” nuclear device was detonated in the Nevada desert. Richard Nixon gave his infamous Checkers speech that same month and the USS Nautilus, America’s first nuclear submarine, was launched in Groton, Connecticut. Indeed it was the heyday of the…

View original 2,348 more words

Chick Austin’s Art World Legacy

SAF's Chick Austin EventOn March 21, 2015, SAF will host a very special event in honor of Chick Austin, The Ringling Museum’s first director from 1947 to 1956. Mr. Austin’s Sarasota home, built in 1925, will be the site of a lecture, house tour and garden party. Ron McCarty, curator and keeper of Cà d’Zan, will present a talk on the house known as“Villa Cirque.” Columnist Bob Plunket, of Sarasota Magazine, will discuss the social history of Sarasota in the 1940s and ’50s. Eugene Gaddis, author of Austin’s biography titled “Magician of the Modern: Chick Austin and the Transformation of the Arts in America”, will present “The Baroque and the Modern: Chick Austin’s Extraordinary Architecture.” Gaddis is the archivist and curator of the Austin House, owned by the Wadsworth Atheneum museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Austin, then in his mid-40s, came from the Wadsworth in 1946 to head the Ringling.

Sponsored by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Sarasota Magazine, and Amore by Andrea.


The following article appeared in the March 14, 2013 Issue of the Observer.

Home of the Month
Glorious Past, Glorious Present
By Robert Plunket

This is where it all started. Even more than the Cá d’ Zan, the Austin House is the birthplace of the modern Sarasota lifestyle. This is where the arts were established as the driving force in local culture, where money and politics collided with creativity, and where the town’s love of entertainment blossomed into the razzle-dazzle that continues to this day. Bette Davis slept here. So did Dame Edith Sitwell, Prince Rainer, and Gypsy Rose Lee — although, one hopes, not all together or at the same time.

Austin House_Sarasota Garden
A. Everett Austin — known to everyone as “Chick” — was the first director of The Ringling Museum, from 1947 to 1956. He remains a legend in the art world. During his previous job at the Wadsworth Antheneum in Hartford, Conn., he was celebrated as the man who introduced modern art to America. His vision embraced all the arts —music, film, theater, architecture — and he worked hard to ensure that both museums under his care became the crown jewels of their communities. His personal style was the epitome of sophistication. He had a penchant for impeccable tailoring and Rolls Royces. The home he designed in Hartford, part Baroque, part Bauhaus, is now a museum.

His home in Sarasota, scarcely less remarkable though much less well known, is now on the market. And its current owner Jerry Chaplain turns out to have been the perfect heir to the Austin legacy.

***

The house was originally built in 1925, in the Mediterranean Revival style of the time. It belonged to the Whitfield family, one of several homes they owned in the area now called Whitfield Estates. Designed by Thomas Monk, architect of Sarasota High, it was a large home for the era—five bedrooms, a small guest cottage, and a large garden set on the western side, with nothing between it and the bay.

The first thing Austin did was eliminate three of the bedrooms and turn that space into two spectacular rooms — a 40-foot ballroom for his famous parties and an adjoining porch done in the Chinese Chippendale style, with green fret work framing a view of the gardens. Both of these rooms remain virtually intact.

When Chaplain gives visitors a tour, he is proud to point out the many original details that date back to Austin. The living room is lined with Scalamandre fabric and the anteroom to the ballroom contains 18th-century Italian hand painted wallpaper, originally from the Asolo Theatre, which Austin brought over from Italy and had installed on the grounds of the museum. (The earliest Asolo rehearsals and play-readings took place out in the garden.)

But, perhaps the most remarkable artifact is not original to the house, though the story it tells perfectly reflects the house’s glamorous appeal. Upstairs in the guest bedroom is a portrait in oil of a graceful female nude, who, upon closer examination, turns out to be Bette Davis. She and Austin were great friends. He even gave her second husband, painter William Grant Sherry, a one-man show at the Ringling. But what her husband perhaps did not know was that Davis’ attraction to Sarasota was due to more than her friendship with Austin. She was here to visit her long-time lover, Stanley Woodward, a well-known painter and a professor at Ringling College. Chaplain purchased the portrait — along with a cache of love letters — from Woodward’s daughter, who was very glad to be rid of them.

***

It takes a certain kind of person to take on the responsibility of such a remarkable home, but Jerry Chaplain is more than up to it. A private art dealer originally from Indiana, he bought the home in 1997 and has lavished time and attention, not to mention money, on this all-consuming project.

He kept the look of the major rooms intact, but modernized the kitchen with an eye toward large-scale entertaining. Most of the major changes have been outside. Chaplain added a pool — a lap pool that doubles as an ornamental reflecting pool, complete with a classical sculpture punctuating the axis. Beyond the pool is a patch of green lawn lined with more statues and, at the very farthest point, a Chinese temple set over a koi pond filled with 36 fish, all of which have names and some of which are up to 3 feet in length.

“Every thing you see is set up for a surprise,” Chaplain says. “You turn a corner and there is something totally unexpected.”

There is so much to see in fact, that only when you look up do you see the biggest surprise of all — a tri-level tree house set in a seven-story banyan tree. Climb the winding stairs to the top and you see a spectacular view of the neighborhood, with the bay a short distance away.

Chaplain spent years decorating the house in a formal, antique-filled style appropriate to its elegant architecture. Then, in May, he sold the home’s entire contents to a single dealer. Since then, he’s been busy refurnishing it in a witty blend of eclectic styles, part outsider art and found objects, part mid-century modern, part industrial, plus a unifying underlay of baroque. Art work is everywhere. A full size ceramic cow (by Longboat Key artist Joan Feder) grazes in the ballroom, and in the library, two friezes of frisky maidens (by Siesta Key painter Viktorija Bulava) face each other from opposite sides of the room. In fact, virtually every object in the house has been found locally, many from Crissy Galleries, Sarasota Architectural Salvage and Elliot Bernstein’s famous Sunday afternoon auctions.

“I’ve done everything I can possibly do,” Chaplain says of the home, with a wistful tone in his voice. Now he’s moving on. He’s purchased a home on a lake in his native Indiana and is already at work designing and remodeling. Thus, the famous Austin House will soon have a new owner and a new life with — hopefully — its magnificent past still intact.


The home, 227 Delmar Avenue, is currently for sale at $869,000. For more information, contact Dyrk Dahl of Coldwell Banker at 941-320-7373.

Modernism for the Masses

Design Research

The 1939 World’s Fair in New York City introduced many new products and ideas about the future of the American home, promoting industrial design and new materials. But where could the average consumer touch, feel and buy modern design? And how could they learn how to choose, and use, the revolutionary new shapes, products and appliances? This lecture will demonstrate how modern design was popularized for the American consumer, highlighting the importance of designers like Russel and Mary Wright, curators like Alexander Girard and John McAndrew, and shopkeepers like Benjamin Thompson at Design Research or Kitty Weese and Jody Kingrey at Baldwin Kingrey.

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic. Her essays, reviews, and features Alexandra_Langehave appeared in Architect, Domus, Dwell, Medium, Metropolis, New York Magazine, the New Yorker blog, and the New York Times. She has a monthly Opinion column at Dezeen. During academic year 2013–2014 she was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is the author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), as well as the e-book The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism (Strelka Press, 2012). She has long been interested in the creation of domestic life, a theme running through Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes (Chronicle Books, 2010), which she co-authored with Jane Thompson, as well as her contributions to Formica Forever (Metropolis Books, 2013) and Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future (Yale University Press, 2006). www.alexandralange.net

SAF Lecture: Modernism for the Masses
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Presented by Alexandra Lange
5:30 to 8:00 pm
Complimentary Meet-and-Greet Reception follows the lecture.
Herald-Tribune, 1741 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

Sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

$10 SAF Members
$15 Public
Free Students, full-time with ID
Purchase Tickets Online

Photo at top: Design Research, Ezra Stoller/ESTO

Save the Paul Rudolph Canopies in Sarasota FL Under Threat of Demolition

By Alastair Gordon
https://www.facebook.com/alastair.gordon.5

It’s been a rough month for architect Paul Rudolph. First, there was news of his Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY being torn down and now, I just got word from the Sarasota Architectural Foundation that Rudolph’s elegantly minimal pedestrian canopies that extend around the side and back of his Sarasota Senior High School (1958-1960) are in imminent danger of being demolished by none other than Ringling College of Art + Design and the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA). Why would a museum want to tear down such an important historic artifact that was designed by the most famous architect of the Sarasota School? It truly beggars the imagination! Most cultural institutions would do anything to have such beautiful modernist structures as part of their campus.

Joseph Molitor photo of Sarasota High School showing all the Paul Rudolph-designed canopies, dated February 9, 1960.

Joseph Molitor photo of Sarasota High School showing all the Paul Rudolph-designed canopies, dated February 9, 1960.

Yes, I can see a clunky transition from parking lot to the back entry of the old brick high school building (c.1926) that the college is now renovating into a museum, but any decent architect would be able to figure out a smooth transition that incorporates the Rudolph canopies while doing a minimum of damage and still announcing “entry” to the people who are entering the museum from the parking lot side.

http-_www.bluffton.edu_~sullivanm_florida_sarasota_rudolph_0028.jpg

Sarasota High School Canopy Walkway. Photo courtesy Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton University.

The Sarasota County School Board did a commendable job in first saving and then meticulously restoring the Rudolph Sarasota High School Addition. Now Ringling College must follow suit and see the logic and historic necessity of saving the Rudolph canopies that extend from the high school onto their part of the property and link the two buildings as they were originally intended to do. The canopies are as important a part of the overall design as the main school building.

SHA Walkway_John Pirman Illus

Sarasota High School Canopy Walkway designed by architect Paul Rudolph. Illustration by John Pirman, http://www.johnpirman.com

Please reach out ASAP and send an e-mail to Dr. Larry R. Thompson who is President of Ringling College and therefore the key decision maker in the building process. (The Sarasota Museum of Art is a project of Ringling College.)

Dr. Thompson’s email address is: officeofpres@ringling.edu

Please don’t hesitate to voice your opinion (esp. all of my architect and arch. critic friends) and let them know how you feel about the importance of these Rudolph’s canopies! Thank you for your participation!


Alastair Gordon is Contributing Editor at WSJ Magazine, Architecture Critic at the Miami Herald and Distinguished Fellow at Miami Beach Urban Studios. He is the author of numerous critically-acclaimed books on architecture, art and urbanism including Weekend Utopia, Naked Airport, Spaced Out, Wandering Forms, Theater of Shopping, Qualities of Duration, Beach Houses, Romantic Modernist, and Think or Swim, an in-depth biography of R. Buckminster Fuller. alastairgordonwalltowall.com