Harold Bubil: My core architectural values

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The proposal for the State Street Parking Garage in Sarasota may have created a controversy over costs, but the design has created a storm of opposition — at least among my 1,300 Facebook friends.

After the Herald-Tribune ran an article about the garage a few days ago, I snapped a photo of the rendering in the newspaper and posted on Facebook: “Proposed State Street Parking Garage, beside being too expensive, has ridiculous architecture right out of 1880. Why not be progressive, a la the Palm Avenue Parking Garage?”

That post drew 25 “likes” and 54 comments. A related post about the Lincoln Road parking garage by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in Miami Beach drew a similar torrent of responses.

And not just from architects.

“They have an opportunity to build something great,” said mortgage broker Mike Rahn, “instead of something that looks like a sweat shop textile building.”

“This design should be scrapped,” wrote Realtor Albert Wooster.

“The ornamental detailing of these pseudo-old buildings adds a lot of costs,” wrote general contractor Josh Wynne. “Honesty in detailing, rather than ornament for ornament’s sake, is a better approach to saving cost and it yields a more genuine building.”

Said local architect Leonardo Lunardi, “The members of the Sarasota school of architecture were innovators with an aggressive desire to reach into the future. Using the architectural philosophy that they laid out is great, but going back and emulating their designs goes against the very principles that generated them. A philosophy cannot be emulated, unlike a style.”

I think Jonathan Parks’ Palm Avenue Parking Garage follows such progressive thinking.

“The Palm Avenue garage is a treat and a delight,” said magazine writer Ruth Lando. “Why not follow that successful example?”

The majority of comments were along this line. One supporter of the proposed garage said, “It’s a matter of taste. I’ll take the 1800s look over the ‘progressive’ look any day.”

This discussion went on and on, and ended with me defending the Herald-Tribune building’s architecture. Which got me to thinking, maybe it is time to share my core architectural values. Some people might be confused, as I have written many stories about modern architecture, yet live in a 1930 Old Florida bungalow.

Originality, not imitation

No matter the “style” (architects hate that word, preferring language) of design, architecture should use original, or at least inspired, thinking to solve the client’s needs. It is not against the law to copy the Taj Mahal, but it would not be good architecture to do so.

Attention to detail

It is more expense and work to quality-control every aspect of a building, from the cut of the baseboards to the fit of drywall to door frame, but it makes a huge aesthetic impact.

Honest use of materials

Don’t glue foam plastic corbels and vinyl details to a house and expect to gain a lot of respect among good builders and architects. The same can be said when covering construction faults with trim.


No one sets out to build an ugly building. But they can become that way through neglect. The appeal of the most nondescript ranch house can be restored not with remodeling, but with repairs, maintenance and relandscaping. If the house can be made to look as it did on Day One, the owner will be proud and happy.

Honor the past, build to the future

Every city worth its salt has an architectural heritage. While it must be respected, it should not be copied. Contemporary work should follow the work of past architects by respecting context, quality and attention to detail.

Preserve our history

The architectural trends of the day certainly do not dictate that we cast aside our historical treasures. They must be maintained and preserved. If they are in the way, move them.

Plan over style

Urban planning, and site planning, is more important than architecture. The most appealing places have plans that welcome human interaction. Almost any architectural style will work on a good plan. Aqua in Miami Beach is a perfect example: New Urbanist plan by Andres Duany; modernist architecture. Seaside is another: Plan by Duany, traditionally-inspired architecture.

No provincialism

When architects from other areas are hired by local developers, many in the community groan and complain. “Hire local!” they say. Why? Pierre Charles L’Enfant was not from Washington, D.C., which he planned. Frank Gehry is not from Bilbao, Spain, where he did the Guggenheim Museum in the 1990s. Thomas Reed Martin was not local when Bertha Palmer brought him here from Chicago. John Ringling hired a New Yorker, Dwight James Baum, to do Ca d’Zan. Cross-pollination is good.

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 19, 2015
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