Letter From Home: Siesta Beach adds to area’s architectural pedigree


A few days ago, I spoke to an engaged audience of about 70 people, most of them members of the Center for Architecture Sarasota, at the Herald-Tribune building in Sarasota as part of CFAS’ “Atelier Talks” series.

While Atelier Talks usually are held at the offices of architects or other designers, this one focused on me, as I do write a bit about architecture.

Video: Architect Jerry Sparkman talks about his firm's work at Siesta Beach

I spoke about how, back in 2000, I added architectural coverage to my responsibilities as the Herald-Tribune’s real estate editor. I got through more than an hour of speaking with the help of two PowerPoint presentations (thank you, Microsoft).

There was a lot of information, and my wife helped me come up with a list of talking points in advance of the event. I got to most of them, but I failed to make two points that I feel are quite important.

Fortunately, unlike most public speakers, I have access to a very large printing press at 1800 University Boulevard, so I can make those points in this space.

Point No. 1: As influential as the “Sarasota School” of architecture was, I believe that our group of practicing architects in Sarasota today compares favorably with the young designers of that time. We may not have a Paul Rudolph, but we do have many talented architects who do good work consistently, across the board. Modernism, the millennial version of it, is alive and well here.

Point No. 2: The architectural community is on a roll, and I am not just talking about architects. Building owners and architectural support groups are doing great things to both preserve architecture of the past and promote good buildings today.

A short list of recent projects includes the Walker Guest House Replica, built by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation; the McCulloch Pavilion, renovated by CFAS; the rebuilding of the shading structure at the Umbrella House by its owners, Bob and Anne Essner, working with architect Greg Hall; the rehabilitation of Paul Rudolph’s 1960 addition to Sarasota High School, encouraged by SAF and engineered by the Sarasota public school system; the building of the new Asian art wing at The Ringling, designed by Machado Silvetti Architects; Sweet Sparkman Architects’ procession of county beach pavilions, crowned by the new structures at Siesta Beach and the associated restoration of Sarasota School stalwart Tim Seibert’s 1959 pavilion there; and the new LEED Gold-certified Sarasota Audubon Nature Center by Carlson Studio Architecture.

There are many other private projects, such as the renovation of the house with the zig-zag roof on Westway Drive in Lido Shores and side-by-side 1920s gems on Bay Shore Road, and dozens of new homes that add to the area’s architectural pedigree.

Both CFAS and SAF continue to produce a steady flow of educational events designed to raise public awareness of architecture, as well.

So there. Points made.

At Siesta ...

Jerry Sparkman and John Bryant of Sweet Sparkman Architects at Siesta Beach. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

Jerry Sparkman and John Bryant of Sweet Sparkman Architects at Siesta Beach. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

In advance of Saturday’s opening celebration for the Siesta Beach complex, I spoke with architect Jerry Sparkman about his firm’s building of two concessions buildings at the famous beach and the restoration of the historically designated Seibert pavilion.

“There was electrical and junk all over it,” said John Bryant of Sweet Sparkman.

The project gives the public beach some much needed new structures, and also serves to reconnect the beachscape to the landscape as one approaches from the parking lot.

Sparkman said a conversation with Tim Seibert dramatically altered the course of the project.

When told the county wanted to simply add onto his historic pavilion, Seibert said to Sparkman, “Why don’t you not treat it like a sausage? Don’t add to it. Add somewhere else.”

Sparkman went on, “So that idea is what made this happen. I said, ‘What if we stretched onto the other side and made space between the new and the old to create a new public space?”

The east and west sides of the $21.5 million beach overhaul are basically “a duplication,” Sparkman said, with concessions and other functions in both buildings.

“The difference is that the west side is that people can, at grade (on ground level) get concessions, go to the bathroom and go back to the beach,” he said. On the east side, beachgoers have to climb stairs to do the same things.

“A lot of people are frustrated by that,” Sparkman said. But the new east pavilion, being brand-new construction, had to be elevated above potential storm-surge level. On the west side of the campus, the historic designation of the Seibert pavilion allowed the addition to be built at ground level, as long as the two structures are connected. They are, by an artistically done concrete walkway linked to the pavilion with cable “supports.”

Not to be outdone, the landscape architecture (Sparkman credits Bill Waddill of Kimley Horn) associated with the Siesta Beach project is a masterwork of spaces that are both user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

The grand opening is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The county has a slate of family activities scheduled following the ribbon-cutting.

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: February 20, 2016
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