Sarasota School of Architecture

An Overview

Sarasota’s private label architecture flourished at the mid-20th century when the community reveled in the spontaneous gathering of artists, writers, architects and performers in the then-small Gulf Coast community. Those were heady days and some of the stories sound like fish tales. Read more about the Sarasota School of Architecture.

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Still-extant examples of this important architectural style

Cooney House

More about the Sarasota School of Architecture

Every time I go to the Sanderling Beach Club, I imagine Paul Rudolph soaking and bending plywood to form the cabanas along the shoreline.

It’s like the architects were trying to outdo the writers and their game of Liars Poker — Only the architects were more physical as they experimented with new materials in the southwest Florida coastal environment.

The Sarasota School of Architecture practitioners adapted Modernist design ideas to life in the subtropical climate without air conditioning. They also experimented with new materials and solutions using glass, terrazzo, cantilevers, cross ventilation and other original solutions. This regional movement began just after World War II and fizzled out in the late 1960s.

Architects Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph articulated the core principles of the style. Twitchell emphasized respect for the climate and land, use of local materials and trying new construction methods. Rudolph codified the principles in 1947 as

  • Clarity of construction;
  • Maximum economy of means;
  • Simple overall volumes penetrating vertically and horizontally;
  • Clear geometry floating above the Florida landscape;
  • Honesty in details and in structural connections.

The caliber of work by these Mid-century Modern architects based in Sarasota drew international attention. Author and Architect John Howey records this history in his book titled The Sarasota School of Architecture: 1941 – 1966. Howey was here, and he correctly calls the end of the era as happening in 1966. He names the major players as Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Paul Rudolph, Tim Seibert, Ralph Twitchell, Jack West, Ralph Zimmerman, William Zimmerman and the youngest full member Carl Abbott.

Modern architecture continues in Sarasota as it does most everywhere, and today’s best architects draw inspiration from these Mid-century greats.

"Paul Rudolph, on upper deck of the lookout tower, Sanderling Beach Club, Siesta Key, Florida" ca. 1953 courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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