Architect Max Strang interprets ‘old-school’ ideas for a new era

By Harold Bubil, real estate editor, Herald-Tribune

Max Strang, a Winter Haven native who made his architectural reputation in Miami,

Max Strang

Max Strang, FAIA, Photo ©Scott Rhea

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.

Max Strang horizontal_600px
The Sarasota Architectural Foundation presented a lecture by Strang, titled “The Evolution of Florida Modernism,” on Wednesday in the Alfred Goldstein Library at Ringling College of Art + Design.

“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 cropped

Raingarden Lofts, [STRANG] Architects, Winter Haven, Florida – Photo ©Claudio Manzoni


For the Raingarden Lofts (shown above) and the under-construction Tuckman House (shown below) in Fort Lauderdale, Strang and his bright young staff took some clues from Paul Rudolph in considering the site and climate. Both structures have vertical exterior “fins” that help control sunlight, without blocking it. Rudolph showed how this could be done at the Deering House (its beefy beachside columns cast shadows on the interior), Sarasota High School, the Umbrella House , the Milam House on Ponte Vedra Beach and other structures that sought to tame the sun without blocking it completely.

Version 3

Tuckman Residence, [STRANG] Architects, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, 2017

“The fins on the second floor, those are in response to climate and privacy in the same way Rudolph’s Milam House did with the staggered squares and the sunshades,” Strang said of the Tuckman House. “The architecture is performing a role to address the climate. The style just comes with it.”

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

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.

SAF Presents Louis Kahn Film and Lecture in December

04-Bangladesh

“If you think of Brick, you say to Brick, ‘What do you want, Brick?’ And Brick says to you, ‘I like an Arch.’ And if you say to Brick, ‘Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, Brick?’ Brick says, ‘I like an Arch.’ And it’s important, you see, that you honor the material that you use. [..] You can only do it if you honor the brick and glorify the brick instead of shortchanging it.”
— Louis Kahn

Transcribed from the 2003 documentary “My Architect: A Son’s Journey”

Thursday, December 11, 2014
5:30 – 8:00 pm

SAF Film: My Architect – A Son’s Journey

Ringling College of Art + Design Academic Auditorium
2699 Old Bradenton Road, Sarasota, FL 34234

Join SAF for a FREE night at the movies – including popcorn! We’ll screen Nathaniel Kahn’s 2003 award-winning documentary about his father Louis Kahn (1901-1974), one of the twentieth century’s leading architects. Limited attendance. This is a FREE event, advance registration is recommended.
Click to register online
Questions: info@saf-srq.org, 941-364-2199

Thank You to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for sponsoring SAF’s 2014 – 2015 Lecture + Film Series and to the Ringling College of Art + Design for providing tonight’s venue.

Click to download the Ringling College Campus Map.
This map is helpful if you haven’t been to Ringling College’s auditorium before.

Film Runtime: 110 minutes; Director: Nathaniel Kahn; Writer: Nathaniel Kahn
Soundtrack: Joseph Vitarelli; Photography Director: Karl Freund & Günther Rittau
Cast: Louis Kahn, Nathaniel Kahn, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, Frank O. Gehry


Thursday, December 18, 2014
5:30 – 8:00 pm

SAF Lecture: Architect Louis Kahn
One of the Most Influential Architects of the Twentieth Century

Presentation by Robert (Bob) Cassway, AIA
Award-winning Architect and Fine Art Photographer

Herald-Tribune, 1741 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

Join Bob Cassway, a student of architect Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania, for a fascinating overview of Kahn’s revolutionary body of work, including the Yale University Art Gallery (1951, New Haven, Connecticut), Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1959, La Jolla‚ California)‚ the Kimbell Art Museum (1966, Fort Worth‚ Texas) and the National Assembly Building (1962, Dhaka, Bangladesh).

The presentation follows Kahn’s life from a small Estonian island to his family’s migration to Philadelphia and explores both his academic and architectural careers. Discover how Kahn’s projects influenced Paul Rudolph’s landmark building at Yale University, Paul Rudolph Hall (formerly the Art & Architecture Building), designed between 1958 and 1963 by Rudolph, who was then the chairman of the Department of Architecture.

Bob Cassway taught at the University of Michigan and Temple University and has been a visiting lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as president of the AIA Philadelphia chapter and his current work includes housing for the elderly, public housing and the restoration of historic buildings. In his senior year, Bob was responsible for drafting the structural drawings for Kahn’s Richard’s Medical Research Laboratories (1957), one of the most important buildings on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

1.5 AIA CE LUs, through AIA Florida Gulf Coast chapter, will be provided. Sign-up at the event.

5:30 pm Lecture and Q & A
7:00 pm Meet-and-Greet Reception

Advance reservations suggested. Click to Pay Online.
Admission
SAF Members: $10
Public: $15
Students: Free

RSVP and Mail check payable to SAF to: SAF Lecture, PO Box 2911, Sarasota FL 34230-2911
Pay at the Door, cash, check or credit card
Questions: info@saf-srq.org, 941-364-2199

Photo, top: Parliament, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1962, architect Louis Kahn, courtesy Architectural Archives, the University of Pennsylvania, photo by Rahman Khan.

SarasotaMOD: Inspired, Iconic, Irresistible

Image

SarasotaMOD October 9-12, 2014

Parks, Owens, Sparkman: The Evolution of Three Architects

Evolution 3 Architects_pix__April24_2014

Three Gulf Coast architects will each present a project from their early professional life as well as a recent one, followed by an analysis of the contrast and how their development as an architect influenced the changes. The remarkable evolution of their careers will be illustrated by what they’ve learned from the design-build process, working with clients, listening to critiques and finding the inspiration that has motivated them to be who they
are today. A panel discussion and Q+A will follow the presentations.

Jonathan Parks is the principal of Jonathan Parks Architect, Sarasota, FL
Joyce Owens is director of Architecture Joyce Owens LLC, Ft. Myers, FL
Jerry Sparkman is a principal of Sweet Sparkman Architects, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota Herald-Tribune
1741 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

5:00 – 5:30 Check-in
5:30 – 7:00 Presentations, Q+A
7:00 – 8:00 Meet-and-Greet Reception

Become a member of SAF and this event is FREE!

RSVP, pay online www.saf-srq.org/events
Pay at the door: cash, check or credit card

SAF + AIA Members: $10
Public: $15
Student: $5

Questions: info@saf-srq.org, 941-364-2199

March 27, 2014 SAF Lecture: Le Corbusier

March 27, 2014 lecture: Corbusier and his Approach to Green Architecture

Save Rudolph’s Sarasota High School

Letter to the Editorsave shs, Sarasota Herald Tribune
By Madison Touchton
Sarasota High School Class of 2016

I’m a freshman in the AICE and MaST programs at Sarasota High and plan to be an architect. I agree we need 21st-century labs, which currently involves gutting the interior of historic Building 4. Can’t we have both?

Money has been found for other schools; why can’t it be found for one of such historical significance? Why can’t the School Board find the funds to restore Paul Rudolph’s Building 4 and give MaST the labs we were promised? Why can’t the labs go in another building? Use Building 4 for administration and other functions.

I’ve heard people say “Rudolph isn’t Frank Lloyd Wright, so why does it matter?” No, he’s not Frank Lloyd Wright; he’s Paul Rudolph, famous in his own right.

Sarasota is the birthplace to the Sarasota School of Architecture, influencing architecture worldwide. This building is important to the history of SHS, the history of Sarasota, and the history of Sarasota education.

To my knowledge, there are only four schools in the world by Rudolph. Two were in Sarasota, where Riverview was demolished and SHS is at risk. Of the other two, one is to become a parking lot and the other renovated, not restored.

It is important that the SHS building be restored to Rudolph’s design. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s not like he’s designing more. Protecting his buildings in Sarasota is a must. I know we need labs; however, in my heart I’m an architect.

Editor: Because the Tribune limits letters to 250 words, the following are the extended and unprinted comments by Ms. Touchton:

First, thank you so much Herald-Tribune for waiting five days to publish my letter, until after the School Board has already voted to continue with the destruction of this historic building. Since Letters to the Editor are limited to 250 words, here’s some of what I had to ‘gut’:

I have seen many articles published about Building 4, including photographs of the interior. Photographs of the interior as it is now: dank, dark, and depressing. No wonder it has been difficult to convince the Public of the importance of restoring this beautiful building. Why not run pictures of the way it once was: bright, open, and inspiring? Show them side-by-side to allow people to see how it once was, and could be again. How about telling a little of the significance of this building in Sarasota’s education history? This building is being described now as holding back the advancement of education in Sarasota; when the whole reason for its existence in the first place was to give to the children of Sarasota a progressive new school and school system. This is not just a historic building, not just a work of one the most significant architect’s of the 20th century, not just a piece of Sarasota history.. no, this building is not holding back our education … it’s a flagship building to the history of the Sarasota school system that shows how a community once took the time and money to give the students of Sarasota the education they deserved. Give this building the honor and respect it deserves. As to the need for 21st century learning opportunities, the need for MaST labs, we need those too. I know that my classmates are for the destruction of this building because they are being told that we will not get our promised labs any other way. We can have both. Build out, build up, but please don’t gut this building.

Madison Touchton
Sarasota High School Class of 2016