Full house for Sarasota MOD Weekend panel


Images from this morning's presentation "Veterans of the Sarasota School," held before a full house at The Francis as part of Sarasota MOD Weekend.

Sarasota Mod Weekend

Susan Harkavy, Tim Seibert, Frank Folsom Smith, Shirley Hiss and Muffi Hiss. Herald-Tribune photo / Harold Bubil; 10-11-2014.

Panelists John Howey, Carl Abbott, Tim Seibert, Gene Leedy and Frank Folsom Smith shared stories and observations about midcentury modernism.

It was also a time for reunions among old friends, including Shirley Hiss, whose late husband, Phil Hiss, hired the Sarasota School architects to design the important local buildings of the 1950s and '60s.

Leedy shared a favorite story about the origins of the phrase "Sarasota School of architecture."

"When I used the phrase, Tim said, 'Come on, Gene, you know there wasn't any such thing.' But the press picked up on it and it stuck. A reporter asked Tim, 'I hear you were one of the founders of the 'Sarasota School.' And Tim replied, 'That's right!' "

A packed house to hear Joyce Owens, AIA, moderate the panel "Veterans of the Sarasota School" during Sarasota MOD Weekend in The Francis, Sarasota. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 10-11-2014.

A packed house to hear Joyce Owens, AIA, moderate the panel "Veterans of the Sarasota School" during Sarasota MOD Weekend in The Francis, Sarasota. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 10-11-2014.

Seibert and Leedy have quite different memories of those days. John Howey, a panelist, wrote in his 1995 book "The Sarasota School of Architecture" that Paul Rudolph and other Sarasota architects of the 1950s would gather at the Plaza restaurant on Fridays to drink and share stories and architectural ideas.

Leedy vouches for that story. But Seibert says if it happened, it didn't happen very often. The architects were individuals and competitive, and Rudolph and Victor Lundy had a strong dislike for one another.

"Victor was very kind to me when I was a draftsman," recalled Seibert. "But when I got my (architectural) license, he couldn't stand the sight of me. Not that I was any competition to him."

Panelist Carl Abbott admitted he had little knowledge of the Plaza scenario, as he was born in 1936 and was still in college at the time. But he did study under Rudolph at the Yale architecture school in its graduate program, and remembers that Rudolph was a gifted teacher "who could make you do things architecturally that you never thought was in you."

Frank Folsom Smith said he took a leave of absence from architecture school at the University of Virginia when offered a job by Lundy. But he was let go by Lundy with three months remaining in his leave and went to work for another Sarasota School architect, Bert Brosmith, whom he described as a very gifted architect. Brosmith, still practicing in New York, ran Rudolph's office after Paul left for Yale and administered construction of Sarasota High School's addition, designed by Rudolph.

Sarasota MOD Weekend continues through Sunday. Your real estate editor is conducting a walking tour of Lido Shores at 2 this afternoon and a boat tour aboard Le Barge at 3 p.m. Sunday. Both events are sold out.

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 11, 2014
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