Design Lines The Sarasota School Of Architecture
By Pamela Hughes
In our last column, I wrote about Modern Design, so I thought it might be interesting to further the discussion and specifically focus on Sarasota itself and “The Sarasota School”. It is interesting to recall that this “modernism” is now more than 50 years old! While that is certainly true, it is also true that as one drives around Sarasota and occasionally sees these houses and buildings from that time, they retain a freshness and originality that is still stunning and inspiring.
In an earlier time, Sarasota was a beautiful, but unknown, little town on the water. The glorious climate, lush sub-tropical foliage, access to the Gulf and the Bay were all attractions that made the area compelling, and still do. But back in the late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s, getting here was more difficult and time-consuming. Nonetheless, the draw was compelling and an increasing number of people of reasonable wealth and progressive outlook began to search for a place to spend winters and retirement.
These people were looking for a place that would provide shelter and comfort, but also that embodied the new spirit of that era. The world was seeing an emergence from the Depression and a new optimism was growing. They wanted a fresh vision, something new and original. There was a small group of talented, energetic and artistic thinkers who had found Sarasota and were welcoming others with their new ideas.
Among these was a young architect, Paul Rudolf, who was starting his career. He was bright and creative, but young and inexperienced. He found employment with another architect and builder, Ralph Twitchell. Twitchell provided the young designer with the guidance, experience and mentoring that served him well for many years. Rudolf became the creative force in the office, while Twitchell had the marketing, construction and office administration resources already in place.
In the later 30’s and early 40’s, these two started to put Sarasota on the national map of places of architectural interest. Their houses and buildings became published in the national press with some notoriety and great interest.
One of their notable contributions was a spirit of experimentation and innovation. Some of the houses are still standing and provide a great lesson in the wise and efficient use of space, respect of sunlight and the use of natural ventilation. These were the days before residential air conditioning so opening up a home to fresh air and breezes was particularly important.
The developments that Rudolf embodied continued as the 50’s progressed. They could be summarized by an enthusiasm for trying new things. The Second World War brought new materials and technologies, and Rudolf and others were anxious to try their hand at creating new forms and methods. Their goals were to capture the light, make open and airy living spaces that had flowing access to the outdoors and to use new materials such as plywood and plastics, concrete and the local lime block.
Of course, Paul Rudolf was led to other commissions as his career and talent became well known. Many residential projects were built here, and quite a few remain. He designed two high schools in the area, one of which is still standing, and he has a few commercial projects remaining as well.
During this time, he also received commissions for the US embassy in Amman, Jordan, as well as speaking engagements in South America for the State Department. His career soon propelled him to head the department of architecture at Yale University, not only teaching and heading the school, but also designing its landmark building that was an icon for its era. The inspiration came not only from what was happening in Sarasota, but from the style and milieu that he was instrumental in helping to create.
While the Sarasota School is now considered a point of time, the legacy is a living one. We can admire the remaining examples of that original core group, and also honor the continuum of modern design by architects and designers now practicing in Sarasota. There are notable and remarkable talents, some known internationally, at work in Sarasota. One doesn’t need to travel far to see some interesting and innovative designs that still proclaim a unique and personal vision of contemporary design. Stark, angular, strong, colorful and daring are words that evoke some of these more successful projects that are found in our landscape and enrich our community.
Much has been written about this fascinating period of architecture and what I have written today is just a very slight introduction. There are many wonderful books available on the topic. Hopefully this column has piqued your interest and made you somewhat aware of the incredible local architecture we can enjoy and appreciate everyday in our very special community.
Pamela Hughes, the founder and owner of Hughes Design Associates, is well known nationally and internationally. Hughes Design Associates is one of the premier interior design firms known throughout North America for specializing in prestigious custom interiors. In Sarasota, Pamela has completed many exceptional projects including The Ritz-Carlton, The Members’ Beach Club, The Tower Residences, and Plaza at Five Points. Her portfolio also includes some of the most luxurious and distinctive residences in Sarasota. Pamela’s work has been published in the best interior design magazines such as Architectural Digest and Veranda, as well as numerous other publications. Also, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) featured her in the program, “Public Places, Private Spaces”, showcasing her work on the Four Seasons Hotel, Philadelphia, and a luxurious private home in Chicago. In addition to their work in Sarasota, Pamela and her firm design projects throughout the US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Pamela may be reached at 941.922.4767 or visit www.hughesdes.com.
Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi
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