Design Guardians at Architecture Sarasota

Thanks to the dedicated work of the team at Architecture Sarasota, the legacy of the Sarasota School is in good hands


The depth of the robust programming at Architecture Sarasota, a nonprofit that “stewards the legacy of the Sarasota School of Architecture” is significant to say the least. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated individuals determined to keep the movement’s heritage alive, there are tours, lectures, and other stellar events year-round. Morris (Marty) Hylton, the president of the organization, describes a milestone in this respect. “Our Sarasota Mod Weekend [Nov. 2-5], which highlights the legacy of the Sarasota School, is 10 years old this year,” he says. “This fall, we will celebrate Victor Lundy.” New to the lineup is The Hub, which was launched in September. This forum promotes design innovation by engaging a network of top-tier research and design institutions that will use Sarasota and Florida’s Gulf Coast region as a laboratory and a model for addressing critical issues, such as affordable housing, coastal resilience, and sustainable development. 

“We’ll have new programming in the spring called Modern by Design that will be spread across the month of March and will showcase contemporary design to highlight how the new generation of architects is continuing to innovate as they address these same issues,” notes Hylton. “We’re also going to be unveiling a new program called Moderns That Matter. Since April, we’ve been updating a countrywide cultural survey of the Sarasota School to catalog extant properties with historical significance. We’re asking people in Sarasota to submit their favorite modern buildings so we can develop at least 100 of those top choices for documentation and historical preservation.” 

While that segment of Moderns That Matter will concentrate on the buildings of the past, there will also be a component that will look to the future. “At the end of the project, we’ll have an exhibition highlighting the work of the newest generation to identify future landmarks,” explains Hylton. “When Rudolph designed the Cocoon House, there were no building codes; the youngest Sarasota School architects must address all types of regulations, especially coastal resilience, to which they have to adhere.” This makes it important to spread the word about how the legacy of the Sarasota School continues. Hylton is remarkably qualified for understanding issues like historic preservation, as he served as strategic initiatives manager for the World Monuments Fund, an international non-profit with a mission of saving endangered heritage globally, from 2002 to 2007. He credits a remarkably passionate group of individuals behind the organization for the center’s current dynamic presence in Sarasota. “The Architecture Sarasota board is amazing,” he says. “Anne Essner, our board chair, has purchased the Umbrella House to preserve it.  Working with people who are so passionate about preservation is a dream come true.” The Umbrella House was designed by Rudolph, one of the Sarasota School founders, for Philip Hiss, whom Hylton calls the impresario of the Sarasota School because he promoted the work of the founding architects who would have otherwise been quietly creating future landmarks along Sarasota’s shores.  

Architecture Sarasota’s mission is to stay attuned to how the architectural past informs the present, and proof that the organization practices what it preaches is the very building in which its headquarters are housed, the McCulloch Pavilion. During the pavilion’s opening evening, when the reincarnation of the building debuted, Joe Farrell, who designed the original structure with William Rupp, told the crowd, “We didn’t realize how important this building was because we were so quickly moving from one project to another. We were naïve; we didn’t think about publicity. It wasn’t until we entered the design for the Progressive Architecture Awards in 1961 that we realized it was special.” How brilliant is it that the Sarasota School of Architecture remains top of mind behind this façade. 

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Text by Saxon Henry

Photos courtesy of Architecture Sarasota

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