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The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) presented homeowner Dr. Barry LaClair with a framed poster of the Cocoon House, aka Healy Guest House, signed by the illustrator and designer John Pirman. This famous Sarasota School home was designed in 1950 by Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph, and is on SAF’s Top Ten Must-See List of midcentury modern buildings in Sarasota, Florida. The house will be featured on trolley tours during SAF’s fourth annual architecture festival, SarasotaMOD, November 10-12, 2017. Event tickets go on sale August 15, 2017. SarasotaMOD.com
Proceeds from the Cocoon House poster benefit SAF’s ongoing programs and will be on sale at the MOD Shop during SarasotaMOD Weekend. For sales inquiries, please email info@SAF-SRQ.org.
Did You Know: In 1953, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City selected the Cocoon House as one of the 19 examples of houses built after World War II as a pioneer design of the future.
The cantilevered roof has steel straps fastened to flexible insulation boards that maintains its curved catenary shape with a sprayed on “cocoon” roofing material.
On Monday, June 12, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) announced the 2017 winners of the sixth annual SAF-Paul Rudolph Scholarships. The awards presentation took place at Ringling College of Art + Design’s Academic Center, Room 207, from 5:30 to 7 pm.
Maxwell Strauss – $5,000 college scholarship
Sarasota Christian School graduate
Bachelor’s Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Will attend the University of Texas, Austin
Bailey Jordan – $1,000 college scholarship
Venice Senior High School graduate
Will be attending the University of Notre Dame, IN
Emily Cain – $500 college scholarship
Pine View School graduate
Will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Morgan Ann Mulholland – $500 college scholarship
Lakewood Ranch High School graduate
Will be attending both Santa Fe College and University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
About the SAF – Paul Rudolph Scholarship Awards
Since 2012, SAF and the Michael Kalman Foundation has awarded $36,262.00 to twelve Florida high school graduates enrolled in a NAAB-accredited professional degree (5-year BA or BA + MA) in architecture. Applicants must be a graduate of a Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Lee or Collier County, Florida High School and in need of financial assistance.
About Paul Rudolph
Born in 1918, Paul Rudolph studied with Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius at Harvard Graduate School of Design and was later Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University. Buildings of his design can be found in cities around the world, including New York, Boston, Fort Worth, Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta. He continued to design buildings into the 1990s, and died in 1997 at the age of 79.
Rudolph, beginning his career in Sarasota, Florida, was one of the most influential architects in all of Florida in the 1950s and was the lead figure in the Sarasota School of Architecture Movement. Among his many award-winning Florida buildings include the Walker Guest House (1952, Sanibel Island), Umbrella House (1953, Sarasota) Sarasota High School Addition (1958, Sarasota), Deering Residence (1959, Casey Key) and Milam Residence (1961, Ponta Vedra).
For more information, please visit https://saf.wildapricot.org/scholarship
SRQ Magazine | January 2014
After more than two years of planning,fundraising and construction, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation’s Walker Guest House Replica made its triumphant debut on the grounds of The Ringling Museum on November 6, 2015, showcasing the ingenuity and design of acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph in his early Sarasota days and affording architecture fans everywhere the chance to experience a Rudolph space firsthand. Within the first two months, more than 9,000 visitors answered the call.
“Paul Rudolph is definitely a name Sarasota and its visitors should know,” says SAF Board Chair Janet Minker. As a defining part of the Sarasota School of Architecture, Rudolph was instrumental in bringing the region into focus during the midcentury modern movement, using broader design principles to fashion singularly Floridian creations such as the Umbrella House on Lido Shores and the Sarasota High School extension. Enlisting the local arts scene to help fund a recreation of one of the artist’s more hidden accomplishments came easily, says Minker, recounting a chilly January morning driving Ringling Executive Director Stephen High out to Sanibel Island to see the original Walker Guest House. “That really sold him on the whole project and we were able to continue.”
“Rudolph was an innovator, a very creative architect,” agrees Joe King, the architect tasked with figuring out how to build Rudolph’s design anew. A 24-by-24-foot interior space, the small size belies the architect’s ability, using novel design elements such as the floor-to-ceiling screened openings and minimal room separation to enlarge the space. In the absence of solid walls, wall-sized shutters hinge at the roof, to be raised or lowered according to the owner’s needs or preferences. Left to gravity, they balance at mid-level, exhibiting no architectural bias toward privacy or publicity. “Rudolph is characteristic of a very disciplined design,” he says, “a very orderly way that is used to make architectural space coherent and intentional.” Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the complex but precise rigging system controlling the shutters with pulleys, cleated ropes and red bobbing counterweights. “Even though it’s rational and clear,” King says, “there’s always a sense of mystery—‘How does it work?’”
The recreation was “challenging,” King admits, but with Rudolph’s original blueprints for reference and measurements and photographs from the original for comparison, the project went smoothly. Construction took only about six months, ending in October, and the hardest part seemed to be finding appropriate materials, such as wooden beams for the outriggers and proper ropes and counterweights for the rigging. Three-strand polyester rope may be out of vogue now, but “that was the latest and greatest in 1952,” reminds King. Unable to find the desired spherical red counterweights, the project resorted to fastening two steel hemispheres with a bolt and using epoxy and other materials to recreate the proper 8-inch diameter.
The crew only actively deviated from Rudolph’s design in two important ways, each angled at allowing a greater number of people to enjoy the project. Creating an exhibit instead of a habitable living space, the bathroom was removed in favor of a lift, making the exhibit handicap-accessible. And looking to make the exhibit a traveling one, the replica was created to be easily broken down, transported and then rebuilt, with King crafting custom-made palettes for just such purpose. Already put to the test, the replica was first constructed in Manatee County before being brought to the Ringling grounds, where it was reassembled without a hitch. With the replica residing on Ringling grounds until October* this year, Minker and SAF already look to the next stop, in talks with such places as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. “People are intrigued,” she says. “Architecture is getting its due in recent years.” [*Editors Note: The Ringling Museum extended the Replica’s stay until April 30, 2017. Over 59,000 visitors have toured the house since opening on November 6, 2015 during SarasotaMOD Weekend.]
Every Item Tells a Story – Sourcing the Furnishings
REBUILDING IS ONE THING AND REFURNISHING QUITE ANOTHER, as Dan Snyder can attest. Using interior photographs from a 1953 magazine shoot by architectural photographer Ezra Stoller for guidance, Snyder and his SAF team have done their best to replicate the interior design with the same exactitude as the architecture. With doggedness and a wee bit of luck, Snyder searched the globe (and the internet) for just the right items to recapture the Walker Guest House in its original 1950s décor.
Biggest Change Flooring Gone are the grey linoleum floors, replaced by painted plywood. “We tried to get it,” says Snyder, “but it’s out of production.”
That Wasn’t So Hard Pole Lamp circa 1953 Snyder thought this one would be tough, singling it out immediately when asked. The fashion of the time, he says, favored floor-to-ceiling setups, making the model in the Stoller photos outside the norm. But a quick stop to see a friend at Braden River Antiques in Bradenton was all it took. Snyder told him what he was looking for, “and he thought for five minutes,” recounts Snyder, before heading into the back and returning with the lamp. “Just like that.”
Time Stands Still Deck Chairs “They still make the same chairs,” Snyder says. They used to call them “director’s chairs,” he says, but the same upstate New York company that made the chairs in the original Walker House all those years ago, Telescope, still makes those same chairs. The only real difference is that the older models had rubber knobs on the feet, “like the rubber tips of a cane.”
SOMETHINGS GOTTEN IN DENMARK CERAMIC BOWL An interesting item, but not so much for its relationship to Rudolph or Walker as that with Stoller, and how it seems to pop up in so many of his photos. “Because he had a station wagon,” says Snyder, “he carried props around in the trunk.” Without much of a lead, Snyder put out the call to his friends, attaching the images. One responded from Copenhagen, purchasing a piece from Danish ceramicist Ditte Fischer that fit the bill and donating it to the project, along with a Danish candleholder designed in 1962 by Mogens Lassen. Neither is identical to the items in the Stoller photograph, admits Snyder. “It’s the same spirit.”
INDIGENOUS LOCAL PRIDE Not one to limit himself to architecture, Rudolph designed all of the furniture in the main room—excepting the chairs—himself, including a table, bookcase, daybed and cocktail table. To recreate these one-of-a-kind furnishings, Snyder turned to local artisan cabinetmaker Dale Rieke, who, after measuring and sketching the originals on Sanibel Island and paired with a local metalworker, crafted them anew. Snyder accents the mise-en-scene with period-appropriate Time and Fortune magazines, an ashtray with a few L&M butts and flowers from his own garden. “And all the magazines are from 1952,” he assures me. “Incredible covers.”
ONLINE AUCTIONEERS EBAY Snyder’s search through EBay helped him bring in items as wide-ranging as an Egyptian-themed wall-quilt to the surprisingly plentiful Hallicrafter S-38 shortwave radio. He found the desk designed by Paul McCobb, identical to the desk from the Stoller photograph, as well as the Lettera 22 typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli, which won the Compasso d’Oro in 1954, complete with carrying case, that sits upon it. But the biggest catch has to be the General Electric refrigerator, circa 1948, found from a seller in Connecticut.
Max Strang, a Winter Haven native who made his architectural reputation in Miami,
turned some heads when he returned to his Polk County hometown to design an elegantly bold, contemporary downtown apartment building called Raingarden Lofts.
The town is known for the progressive modernism of architect Gene Leedy. But still, the lofts, completed in 2015, stand out. Winter Haven is not Miami.
The façade of the building evokes Paul Rudolph‘s 1958 Deering House on Casey Key. That is not by chance. In 1980, when he was 10, Strang’s parents bought a rundown house on Casey Key next to Leedy’s restored beach house, which was a few houses up the beach from the temple-like Deering House. Although now largely hidden from street view by a new house on the site, it has become an icon of the Sarasota School of architecture.
“My father purchased a decrepit old shack next door to a house Leedy had renovated for his own use,” said Strang, whose firm is known as [STRANG], complete with the brackets. “I used to go shelling there all the time.”
He also used to visit the Leedy-designed Syd Solomon House on the south end of Siesta. No longer standing because of beach erosion, it was “a powerful space, too,” Strang recalls.
These childhood experiences shaped the architect’s outlook. And he firmly believes Florida’s midcentury modern architecture still has plenty to teach the designers and clients of today.
“A good Sarasota School of Architecture house blurs the indoor-outdoor (divide) so well – the walls of glass, the light coming in from different directions,” Strang said Monday in a telephone interview. “For me, it is a sense of peace when you are inside one of those homes.”
He should know. His childhood house in Winter Haven was designed by Leedy, who got his start in Sarasota in the early 1950s before heading to Polk County.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Strang worked for Leedy as an intern. “He sent me to Tampa as free labor for John Howey, doing drawings” for Howey’s 1995 book, “The Sarasota School of Architecture.” He later worked in the firm of the late Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid. His firm has offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Telluride, Colorado, where he lives.
Strang is often approached by clients who want the delicacy of the midcentury modern houses, but the luxury and size of today.
“All the time, I get a new commission to do a house, and the client will bring me reference images of Sarasota School houses, or (1940s) Case Study houses in Los Angeles, yet they are asking for an 8,000-square-foot house,” he said with a laugh. “I think there is a nostalgia for the smaller scale of these things,” a scale that is hard to achieve when flood-zone requirements mandate the elevation of waterfront homes.
“And, there are the strict product approvals in South Florida,” Strang said. “It is hard to get the sizes of the windows that we would prefer. The Florida Energy Code says you can only have so much glass in the house, too. So it is a struggle to match the delicacy and transparency of those early buildings.”
But, the ideas of Rudolph, Leedy, Tim Seibert, Victor Lundy and others endure, and can be reused, if not reproduced, he said. Those ideas include clarity of design concept, the honest and innovative use of materials, using structure to define space and not compete with it, and blending indoors with outdoors.
“It is the repurposing of the ideas, not repurposing the exact iteration of the building,” Strang said. “It underscores the timelessness of the Sarasota School. The modern movement probably got overtaken by schlocky modern buildings too quickly, and the good stuff wasn’t appreciated. Its time ended prematurely. So I am happy to help share the ongoing relevance of midcentury modernism.
“There can be very schlocky modern architecture, too. When someone does a traditional building poorly, it is not as bad as when someone does a modern building poorly.” SAF
A look inside Paul Rudolph’s masterfully crafted Harkavy House.
At first glance, Paul Rudolph’s Harkavy House is shielded behind latticework lashes, the exterior belying the depth within. Built almost like a Japanese Shinto shrine with overhangs like a warrior’s outstretched arms flying out from either side—the easternmost hidden by the late-2000s addition—the Harkavy House’s interior warrants a sharp inhale upon entering, as you are met with 365 degrees of pure light shining unfiltered into the grand living space.
Janet Minker, chair of the board of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF), notes that like in all Rudolph designs, he begins with “one small detail and then everything else builds on it.” Here, the building blocks come from walls that aren’t walls, constructed on a symmetrical grid system. Dr. Christopher S. Wilson, a professor of architecture at Ringling College and an SAF board member, says Rudolph would set up a grid that would follow through the entirety of the design. “In the Harkavy House,” he says, “it’s a three-part grid.” In the belly of that grid lies the living area; the rectangular space bordered on the left and right by high-walled sliders, the front wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows, with ceilings throughout the house held up by long white beams like ribs. What are seemingly solid walls take on the essence of Japanese fusama, sliding walls that open onto a secondary space—in this case, the lush outside. Open both the east and west walls and the living room and kitchen become bathed in a tropical glow, the amount of space itself almost doubled. Though awe-inspiring, the home feels innately comfortable—nothing is so dainty that it may break by simply looking at it, the bones of the structure industrial, hardy and usable.
The home is wrapped in a sort of lattice, a screen, Wilson explains, that helped to provide shade (and privacy) before the days of air conditioning. Go up the original stairs to witness the next parts of the grid; head left into the addition—the wide bay window of the bedroom looks out onto the pool through the crisscrossed lens of the sunscreen, the once visible from the outside arms of the overhang at eye level here. Look down and you’ll see the two-by-fours holding the house up sit perched on cannonballs, a characteristic pulled from the Walker Guest House. Head right off the stairs and you’ll be met with the two original bedrooms, both modest in size, one typified by Rudolph’s classic built-ins, the other by the lattice wrap on the exterior, where sliders open to nothing but a thin screen and salty air. Of the house, Minker puts it simply: “It’s pure Rudolph.”