LETTER FROM HOME: Local design event and a New Orleans mansion


The biennial Sarasota Design Conference will be held June 17-18 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

“It’s our big thing,” said conference director Selma Wilson, AIA.

The theme of the 2014 conference was “What’s Next.” Following up on that, the theme of the 2016 SDC is “Designing to the Challenge.”

“As architects, our greatest skill set is design,” said Wilson. “We use all kinds of tools to accomplish our task, but we wanted to focus specifically, for our speakers, what are the design decisions they are making that create success in the challenges they are faced with.”

“We tried to get speakers that would address different kinds of challenges,” Wilson said. One of them is Craig Schwitter, head of the U.S. office of Britain’s BuroHappold Engineering. “We as architects need engineers with design skills that go beyond the number-crunching. BuroHappold is certainly one of those firms.”

Another speaker, Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka, is noted for designing a kindergarten building “that has challenged how education buildings can be, and are not in the United States. We wanted him to talk about that.”

Speaker Maryann Thompson, FAIA, is noted for her landscape architecture. “In Florida, how we deal with the landscape is very important,” Wilson said. “We need to not only draw from our landscape, but integrate and feed back into the landscape.”

One of the hottest firms in the world of architecture is a Norwegian company that has the curious name Snohetta.

The “o” should have a slash through it, but I’m not sure we are able to do that with our publishing software.

Snohetta, named for a mountain in Norway, means “the mountain with a hood of snow,” and its designers have been drawing exciting new buildings that are a staple of the architectural press, both in magazines and online. Elaine Molinar, AIA, LEED-AP, managing director of the company’s New York office, will represent the firm at SDC.

The list of past speakers at SDC since 1988 is impressive. It includes Antoine Predock, Peter Eisenman, Paul Rudolph, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Michael Sorkin, Thom Mayne, Rafael Vinoly, Chad Oppenheim, Ted Flato and Lawrence Scarpa.

A taste of New Orleans

A mansion for sale in New Orleans' Garden District. Staff photos / Harold Bubil.

A mansion for sale in New Orleans' Garden District. Staff photos / Harold Bubil.

I have spent last week in New Orleans for the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ annual conference, and I can tell you, we spent too much time inside — even though they do heat and humidity with the best of them in NOLA.

We did, however, take several tours, including a bus tour of luxury real estate hosted by Chip Gardner of Gardner Realtors, a member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World network (as is Sarasota’s Michael Saunders & Co.)

NAREE’s membership, pretty much all of them real estate geeks like myself, crammed into a studio apartment in the adaptively reused Cotton Mill condominium, which is an 1882 brick building with beautiful courtyards that takes up an entire block in NOLA’s Warehouse District. The price was $274,500, and you can have a party for 60 in its 732 square feet as long as the guests get along really well. NAREE proved it.

porchBut then it was on to see some of the grand homes in the Garden District along St. Charles Avenue, which has a streetcar line, popular with tourists, running down the middle. An 8,223-square-foot mansion, the 1880 Thomas Sully Mansion, is under contract with a list price of $2.195 million through Eleanor Farnsworth (is that a great real estate name, or what?) of Gardner. Described as a Queen Anne Italianate home, it is pretty as a picture in its restored state, but it was a drive-by, and I was on the wrong side of the bus, so I have no photo to share. Google it. (That’s what Victor Lund of WAV Group, a NAREE speaker, told me I should do when I can’t find listing information on an agent’s website without searching the entire Central Florida MLS.)

stairsI did ask Chip Gardner, our able tour guide, “Does it hurt the value of the house to have that noisy streetcar clanking past it all day?” Picking up on this set-up question, he responded that the streetcar line actually adds value to St. Charles properties.

As an added bonus, the Mardi Gras parade goes right down the street, “and you will discover friends you never knew you had, wanting to drink your beer and eat your food and use your bathroom during the parade.”

You won’t find that kind of ambience on Bay Shore Road.

My favorite house on the tour (see photos) was at 1527 Sixth St.; it, too, is listed by Eleanor Farnsworth, who was described by Chip as the top agent in New Orleans. The 1870 Victorian has 6,818 square feet and is priced at $2.5 million.

Realtor Eleanor Farnsworth was born in New Orleans and never left the Crescent City.

Realtor Eleanor Farnsworth was born in New Orleans and never left the Crescent City.

Restored, it has 13-foot ceilings with original hardwood floors, medallions and millwork. There is a big porch on the east side overlooking the pool, which is surrounded by an intricately planned and painstakingly maintained garden, as was the case with each property we visited.

I would compare it to a similar property in Sarasota, but there is nothing like it. If this house were on the west side of Bay Shore Road, it would be a $10 million listing, depending on the size of the lot.

— Follow me on Twitter at @htrealestate or on Facebook.com/Harold.Bubil

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: June 14, 2016
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