International architecture group brings conservation message to Sarasota



The Herron House, a midcentury modern by Victor Lundy in Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

The Herron House, a midcentury modern by Victor Lundy in Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

A prominent preservation group has given Sarasota's modern architecture its "stamp of approval" by choosing the city as the site of its first national symposium.

The U.S. chapter of the international group, Documentation and Conservation of the Modern Movement (Docomomo-US), will hold the event from Thursday through Saturday.

The selection of Sarasota further establishes the region as a significant center of modernist architecture, said local architect Carl Abbott. Docomomo-US could have chosen another renowned modernist mecca, such as Palm Springs, Calif., Columbus, Ind., or New Canaan, Conn., for its first event.

"The raising of a level of awareness is a benefit of having Docomomo here," said Abbott, who is scheduled to lead a bus tour and a panel discussion during the event. "It says that Sarasota is recognized by those who know architectural history as very, very important."

Docomomo promotes conservation of important modernist buildings, sites and neighborhoods, primarily by recording their existence on a comprehensive list. The group cannot save what it does not know about. Volunteers compile the list; Docomomo-US has one paid employee, Executive Director Liz Waytkus.

"This is the only annual event discussing the preservation of modern architecture," said Waytkus. "The symposium features academic presentations, a 'Grassroots Leadership Forum,' a keynote address and tours of Sarasota's significant post-war architecture."

"It is a tribute to our architecture," said Janet Minker, president of the co-sponsoring Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF), which is organizing tours for the symposium. "It is pretty amazing."

Attendees will tour Lido Shores and a list of midcentury modern buildings that includes the Umbrella House (1953), Hiss Studio (1953), City Hall (1966), Sarasota High's Building 4 (1958-60), St. Paul's Lutheran Church (1958, 1970), Gateway Bank (1974), the Sanderling Club's beach cabanas (1952) and the Cocoon House (1950), as well as landmark buildings from other eras, including CĂ  d'Zan (1925) and the Herald-Tribune building (2006).

The Sarasota event is being organized with the help of the SAF and Marty Hylton, assistant professor of interior design and historic preservation at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Hylton has just written a book on 1950s Sarasota developer and school board chairman Phil Hiss, who fostered the Sarasota School by employing young modernist architects to build houses in Lido Shores and county school buildings.

"It is a real honor to have them choose Sarasota as the site of their first national conference," said Minker. "This is a good thing."

"It will make people more aware of what we've got," said Abbott. "Some people act as if these are throw-away buildings, but these are major legacies. Most cities would give an arm for these."

Abbott will chair a session on the late architect Paul Rudolph, well known as the leading figure of the "Sarasota School of architecture," a group of designers who adapted international-style modernism to the Florida climate and topography in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. The session includes presentations on different periods of Rudolph's professional life: "Material Culture — Pattern of Innovation"; "Paul Rudolph and Campus Architecture"; and "University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth — The Utopian Experiment of Paul Rudolph".

Other presentations:

-"Historic Preservation and the Sarasota School of Architecture" will focus on the history and future of buildings designed by architects Gene Leedy, Tim Seibert, Victor Lundy, Ralph Twitchell and others.

-"Does Modernism Matter in Florida? The Destruction and Preservation of Alfred Browning Parker's Post-War Architecture."

-"Warm Mineral Springs," which has a Victor Lundy-designed hotel.

-"Modernism as the New Frontier of Preservation," the keynote address by Theodore Prudon, Ph.D., FAIA, president of Docomomo U.S.

-Talks by guest lecturers on the former Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, successful urban renewal projects in Detroit, the adaptive renovation of the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building in New York, and how Los Angeles is successfully identifying and recording its modern heritage.

"We are especially looking forward to the Sarasota Modern interactive workshop that is going to be held on Friday, the 19th," said the SAF's Minker. "We are gathering stakeholders from the community — city and county commissioners, architects, students and homeowners who want to see this legacy continued, to explore the potential of holding a future Sarasota Modern Week," similar to the popular event held each winter in Palm Springs, Calif. Sidney Williams, who is on the board of directors of the Palm Springs event, will speak here during the Docomomo symposium.

"Modern Matters is more than architecture," says Waytkus. "It's about the neighborhoods we live in, the buildings we work in and the landscapes we all inhabit. Modern Matters is about bringing together architects and academics with historians and homeowners to share experiences, explore challenges and celebrate modernism's achievements in Sarasota and throughout the country.

"With so much of our building stock from the mid-20th century, even well-known sites, such as Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center and Bertrand Goldberg's demolition-slated Women's Prentice Hospital, need an organized voice as to why these places matter."

The nonprofit Docomomo US was founded in 1995 and is affiliated with the international Docomomo. The US group has 13 regional chapters. The group works with preservation authorities, building owners and homeowners to advocate for the protection and preservation of modernist structures.


Ticket and schedule information: Tickets range in price from $75 per day to $200 for the entire symposium. Registration includes admission to all of the symposium's non-ticketed sessions, special events and receptions.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: April 15, 2013
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