'Paradise' suits architecture of Sarasota school's Joe Farrell


Architect Joe Farrell, one of the “Sarasota school” of midcentury modernists, visited Sarasota last week from Hawaii, where he has lived and worked since leaving Sarasota in 1961. Farrell grew up in Sarasota, attended Sarasota High School and the University of Florida, and then came home to start his career. He designed a few houses, including the glass-and-wood art studio/home of the Uhr Family, and, with Bill Rupp, the Scott Building for the Barkus Furniture Co. and Caladesi State Bank in Dunedin.

He also designed a modernist office building on the South Trail for his brother, Reid, who developed Phillippi Gardens and other local subdivisions.

In Hawaii, Joe Farrell has designed substantial government and high-rise residential buildings over his six decades of practice. You could say that his designs are well suited for “paradise,” regardless of the longitude.

A few days ago, Farrell gave a lecture to members of the Center for Architecture Sarasota at the Scott Building, which CFAS is renovating for its use as a gallery and lecture space. The University of Florida’s architecture school will share the building and offer a master’s degree in architecture there through its CityLab-Sarasota program, starting in August.

“I have always been attracted to significant architectural beauty,” he said. “I do like Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and I.M. Pei’s work, and Mies van der Rohe. They are all different.”

But his main influence was none other than Paul Rudolph, whom Farrell described as an “incredibly gifted architect.”

In fact, Farrell’s career is similar to the late Rudolph’s in that they both started with modest Florida beach homes and graduated to Brutalist institutional buildings and residential high-rises.

Farrell even has done a few Mediterranean revival buildings, and counts 1920s boomtime architect Addison Mizner as an inspirational figure.

He said he occasionally does a “one-off” project with a traditional design language, such as government buildings in Honolulu or the Republic of Palau, and then returns to modernism.

“I call myself a pluralist,” he said. “You have to call yourself something.”

Said CFAS co-founder Cindy Peterson, “We had a great visit with him and learned so much about the building’s history and its importance in Joe’s career.”

Reid and Adelaide Farrell attended Joe’s lecture. Their son, also named Reid but better known as Dee, became an Episcopal priest and served the St. Boniface congregation on Siesta Key and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Punta Gorda, among others parishes in several states. He recently retired as pastor of a small-town church in Vermont and has returned to Sarasota.

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: March 22, 2014
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