Bubil: Hire local architectcs, or go afar?


My feature story a week ago about Aria, a new condo project on Longboat Key by developer Jay Tallman, mentioned that the architect is from Tampa and the contractor from Naples.

That brought this response on my Facebook page:

“I’m always curious why, when a large development happens in Sarasota, the developers don’t keep all of the business in town. Why bring in design groups from Naples when we have so many talented professionals right here in our own town? Seems Mr. Tallman has certainly been successful by our city supporting him and his projects. I have noticed this with other developers in town as well. Seems like a lack of commitment to our own city’s economy.”

In response, I must say that this is one of the oldest controversies in architecture. Local architects were peeved when New York legend-in-the-making I.M. Pei was brought in 50 years ago to design the dormitories at New College.

When then-publisher Diane McFarlin chose Miami architectural firm Arquitectonica to design the Herald-Tribune’s Main Street headquarters about a decade ago, there was a rumbling in the local design community.

The world landmark Sydney Opera House was designed by a Dane, the late Jorn Utzon, who was among 200 entrants in an international design competition. As it was being built, a newly elected government said it was too expensive and cut off payments to the architect. He was forced to resign, left Sydney and never returned. In return for this blunder, the government of New South Wales got one of the best buildings of the 20th century, and Sydney became a world travel destination. The Opera House has pumped billions into the local economy since 1973.

“We shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us,” said Winston Churchill.

And enrich us.

Our version of the Sydney Opera House? Van Wezel Hall, of course, designed by William Wesley Peters of Taliesin Associates, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. Not a local firm. That seems to have worked out OK.

I have a point. It is, if we only hired local architects and builders for local projects, things would get pretty stale pretty fast. Cross-pollination is a good thing, especially in architecture. I will put up our group of architects against any in the state, and they get plenty of jobs elsewhere to prove my confidence in them.

Architecture is not practiced in walled camps, with provincial designers jealously guarding their territories from outside influence. It’s a global pursuit. The language of design is universal, and encourages the free exchange of ideas across borders and oceans.

Finally, in plenty of instances, locals are getting the plum jobs. On this page, the Ohana Retreat is featured. Sarasotan Guy Peterson OFA did the architecture and local contractor Michael Walker built it.

However, the landscape architect, Raymond Jungles, is from Miami.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

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: January 4, 2014
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