4 firms add to Sarasota's architectural cred at state AIA convention


Pulling the spotlight away from some of Florida’s best-known building designers, four respected architecture firms from Sarasota won design awards during the recent 2014 American Institute of Architects Florida/Caribbean convention in Miami.


The top award is the “Honor Award of Excellence for New Work.” Two were presented by a panel of judges — to Guy Peterson OFA, for The Spencer House on Orange Avenue in Sarasota, and Sweet Sparkman Architects, for its collection of Sarasota County beach pavilions.

Sweet Sparkman also won an honor award for “Theoretical and Research Design” for “Origins,” its interpretation of Siesta Key beach sand. It was designed for the Venice Biennale and later was exhibited at Sarasota Museum of Art. It was created with students from Ringling College of Art + Design.


Carl Abbott's "Test of Time" winner -- Villa Cedra. Courtesy photo.

“That is good for Sarasota,” said Guy Peterson. He said Sarasota’s architectural quality compares favorably with that found in any other city in the state.

“I walked out of AIA being very surprised,” said Michael Halflants of Halflants + Pichette, a merit award-winning firm. “There are very good architects here, but it wasn’t just one firm being represented. It was a number of firms. That was great.”

In 2013, the Florida/Caribbean Honor Awards for New Work were won by the acclaimed international firms Arquitectonica, with headquarters in Miami, and Perkins + Will, with 24 global offices, including one in Orlando. Such firms are noted for large-scale projects, such as high-rise office towers, college buildings and government buildings. Arquitectonica won an Honor Award in 2007 for the Herald-Tribune building in Sarasota.

“The only thing we don’t have (in Sarasota) is the scale you can have in Miami,” said Halflants.

Merit award winners:
• Halflants + Pichette (“Bay Front Addition” on South Boulevard of the Presidents), renovation.
• Sweet Sparkman (“Strandhus,” in Lido Shores), renovation.
• Halflants + Pichette (“Verandah House,” now nearing completion on Seminole Drive in McClellan Park), unbuilt design.
• Carl Abbott Architect/Planner (“Villa Cedra” in Sarasota), Test of Time.

The "Bay Front Addition" by Halflants + Pichette, as seen from the bay. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 9-6-2014.

The "Bay Front Addition" by Halflants + Pichette, as seen from the bay. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 9-6-2014.

The entries were judged by a panel of five architects from Michigan.

The Spencer House was controversial when it was completed in late spring 2013. Some observers think its bold geometry is an energy boost for local architecture and a sign of a fresh wave in design. Others think it is out of place in a neighborhood of 85-year-old houses.

“I don’t hear any more rumblings from the community,” said Peterson. “Everyone says they love that house. You have to look at it on an urban scale and what is happening with architecture in a broader sense. I think history is going to judge it in a positive light.”

The Spencer House also won awards as both an unbuilt and built project from the local AIA chapter.

Peterson said controversy is good when it comes to architecture.

“There is a good quote I read from Ken Thompson (the late Sarasota city manager),” said Peterson, “after the fact, on the 15th anniversary of the Van Wezel Hall, which was very controversial at the time. He said, ‘If a building doesn’t create some controversy, it’s not a good work of architecture.”

Peterson recently won the 2014 Faculty Service Award from the University of Florida’s School of Architecture. He is an adjunct professor at UF.

Abbott has won many state awards in his long career, including a half-dozen Test of Time awards.

“It means that the work my firm does has a lasting value,” he said. “It also says we are not tied to fads or what is in all the magazines. We are working more with true architecture.

“It also says a lot about the owners who have taken care the buildings, because a lot of care is needed to preserve what is, I guess the word is, art.”

Abbott added, “With any awards thing, it’s what the jury likes. Awards are good, but they’re not everything.”

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: October 2, 2014
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