Harold Bubil: Drive-by musings


Returning to town last week after a vacation, I took stock of the architecture seen along the route from Miami to Sarasota, and was reminded of a quote by the late British critic Sir Osbert Lancaster: “The peculiar danger inherent in all revivals is the inability to stop,” he wrote, in a book called “Pillar to Post: The Pocket Lamp of Architecture,” way back in 1938.

With the exception of Miami’s condo-tower skyline, Mediterranean revival is everywhere, particularly among new buildings. It would be nice to see Florida developers give up this pretentious architecture, or at least do it with the reserve and sense of scale that was seen in the 1920s. A style that was developed with a low-rise building in mind has been applied to high-rises. It doesn’t work. One example: The proposed Grande Sarasotan condo at Gulf Stream and U.S. 41.

Born of a false history to sell real estate, Mediterranean revival condo towers oversell themselves by slathering time-tested (or time-worn) details, such as arches, corbels and columns, onto building facades. This is the 21st century, and we don’t need to overapply the makeup.

Making matters worse are phony materials. It doesn’t take an Italian craftsman to apply Tuscan (Note to builders: This isn’t Tuscany) details to a building — not with the glue-on foam detailing available today.

Architects like Tim Seibert and Carl Abbott always talk about “honesty of materials.” That means a window should be something you can see through — not a faux ornament that you use to adorn an otherwise blank wall. But that is just what has been done at the Phillippi Landings condominium overlooking the creek in Sarasota. (We can tell they’re not real.) The drive back to town wasn’t a total waste, though. I got a glimpse of Wood+Zapata’s new terminal building at the Miami International Airport. It’s spectacular.

NOTE, Oct. 1, 2015: I am happy to report that the Med Rev craze has died down and that progressive modern buildings have a strong presence among new housing stock, especially in the more-expensive neighborhoods close to the water. And the Grande Sarasotan was not built; it was replaced, instead, by the modern Vue condominium that is now under construction.

—Harold’s upcoming public appearances include a talk to the Sarasota Garden Club members at 11 a.m. Nov. 16 on the city’s architectural history. At 5 p.m. Nov. 18, Harold will host the Center for Architecture Sarasota’s “Atelier Talks” series at the Herald-Tribune building at 1741 Main St. He will speak about his architectural inspirations and journalism.

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 14, 2015
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