Bubil: A Facebook debate over modernism


Social media can be a powerful forum for debating issues.

Case in point is my Facebook page (Facebook.com/Harold.Bubil), in which I asked, on Nov. 13, “Private property rights vs. historic preservation — where do you stand?”

Somehow the ensuing, lengthy discussion morphed into a debate about the origins of Sarasota school of architecture (SSofA). In it, Andrew Georgiades, of the City of Sarasota’s Urban Design Studio, questioned the originality and oft-alleged supremacy of Sarasota’s midcentury modern architecture.

“All of the tectonic languages,” he wrote, “are valid and all are part of Sarasota’s architectural legacy.” (Tectonics in architecture is defined as the science and art of construction.)

He continued, “The important thing is to render each building in a street-friendly, climate-responsive way. An authentically rendered wood vernacular or Mediterranean revival can satisfy this, as well as a streamlined building that employs a modernist ‘language.’

“SSofA, though wonderful, is a direct descendant of an architectural idiom perfected in other countries.

“The contributions of SSofA are enormous and weighty, and the buildings are precious, but (it) cannot be seen as a strictly native and ‘inevitable’ style for Sarasota; rather they were highly influenced by foreign ideas. As evidence of this, the tectonic language of SSofA closely tracks the evolving tectonic language of global International Style modernism between 1940 and 1970. By the time the midcentury was here, many of these ideas had already been in play for many decades elsewhere.”

I responded by writing, “No one is saying that Sarasota Modern is a style that developed in a vacuum. It was deeply influenced by the modern masters elsewhere. Peterson by Mies. Abbott by Barragan, Kahn and Rudolph. Rudolph and Lundy by Gropius and Wright.

“It often has been written that the Sarasota school, as it were, was a regional adaptation of the International Style modernism that took root in Europe after World War I..

“We are talking about maybe a century of devout modernism in architecture. In neotraditional revivals, we are talking about 2,500 or more years of history that is drawn upon. Dismissing Sarasota modernism as a rehash of decades-old ideas distorts its historical context; it has happened in a relatively brief time.

“And certainly, Peterson, Sultana, Sparkman and others in Sarasota today are not making copies of Rudolphs and Lundys.”

Eventually, Andrew and I found common ground. Maybe we can continue the discussion on Monday, Dec. 8, when I will celebrate my 40th anniversary with this newspaper. This would not be possible without you, my readers and sources. So to say “thank you,” we are holding a little party from 5 to 7 p.m. in the plaza and lobby of the Herald-Tribune building, 1741 Main St., Sarasota. Readers and sources are welcome; cake will be served.

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: November 30, 2014
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