Questions for a pro: architect Sam Holladay, Sarasota


After graduating in 1971 from the University of Florida with a degree in architecture, Sam Holladay was hired by Seibert Architects. When founder Tim Seibert, an icon in modern Sarasota architecture, retired in 1994, Holladay took over the firm, building on the legacy and history he had been part of for 23 years. Since then, the company has done a wide range of work, from condominiums to school projects to custom-built homes.

In the Seibert office in the Rosemary District, where correspondent Chris Angermann interviewed Holladay, are photographs of the firm's vintage buildings and recent work. "We use it as our background and references for newer projects," he says.

Q:Do you have a particular approach or vision for architectural design?

A:If it's a good design, we're always interested, regardless of the style. We've done our share of historic preservation and adaptive reuse, not just contemporary buildings. Those were good projects and worth getting into — for example, the White Cottage at Historic Spanish Point, and the C.B. Wilson House at Urfer Park.

If someone wants to renovate and transform a basic ranch house, we've done that. Sometimes it requires opening up walls, looking at light and the site orientation. For me, it's mostly about how the space works. In our area there is a great indoor-outdoor connection, visually and physically; and to make that happen on anything but a glamorous house is quite a feat.

Q:What do see in happening in Sarasota from a design point of view?

A:I think the master plan Andres Duany helped develop 10 or so years ago is one of the best things the city did. They took about 17 to 18 different zoning areas within the footprint of the downtown area and transformed them into four zones. It simplified the process immensely and will help with any sort of future development.

The downside is that there is too much emphasis on keeping the same designs for development. In a city like Sarasota, which has a variety of buildings, to force a pattern for the windows and store fronts is not a correct way to go about it. My understanding of the Duany standards is that all of the buildings are going to be the same and mediocre. I don't see architecture that way.

Q:What are the challenges for getting a building done?

A:Shortly before Tim Seibert retired, he asked me to give him a list of all the agencies we have to deal with for a presentation to a civic group in town, and I did. During his speech, he said, "One of the reasons I'm retiring is ..." and he started reading from the list of different regulatory agencies you had to get approval from, which filled up at least a page. Some of that is now incorporated in the building code, but the list went on and on.

We're going through that right now with a little 2,700-square-foot house on Siesta Key. It's not on the Gulf, but in what they call the coastal control line. That requires a 90-day period of review. If there are issues, it's another 90 days for us to reply. They're very specific about the criteria, and you either get them right or you don't — you have to have pile foundations and a certain elevation of the floor above wave crest. It's the kind of thing, if it took more than a week, it would be long. Why does it have to take 90 days?

Q:How do you work with your clients?

A:You really have to listen to them. You look at the cards you're dealt on a project, from the client to the site, budget, codes and regulations, stir them all up in a pot and pour it out. As silly as that may sound, all of a sudden a great idea will come to me — how it will all gel, and what we can do. I like that design process, and I'm pleased with a lot of our results. We have some outstanding people here, like Michael Epstein and Pam Holladay, and it's fun to watch them come up with solutions.

I also like the quality of clients we have. It's great to be able to deal with people who either know what they're looking for, or who say, "I'm not sure what to do. Show me something." And when it's all done, having them tell us, "It's better than I thought it would be."

Q:What do you see in the future for architecture in Sarasota?

A:Tim Siebert said many times, "Hems go up and hems go down," and it's the same with architecture.


Last modified: June 15, 2013
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