In the early 1940s, a group of Florida architects created a regional modern style now known as the Sarasota School of Architecture. Their designs incorporated new materials, such as terrazzo, as well as local materials like cypress, and numerous features, such as wide roof overhangs, louvered walls and shutters, were employed to withstand the subtropical climate.
Back then, Sarasota was a sophisticated city, with an art museum, several theaters, a symphony orchestra. A group of wealthy residents and intellectuals patronized them, exactly the sort of people who want the most modern, groundbreaking architecture.
Here, we’ll take a look at three of the Sarasota School’s most iconic buildings, all of which were designed by Paul Rudolph and Ralph Twitchell. Although both Twitchell and Rudolph were architects, they had a unique relationship where Rudolph generally produced conceptual designs, while Twitchell translated them into buildable plans and managed the construction. All three properties are managed by Architecture Sarasota; the New York Times recently noted, “Architecture Sarasota is a new organization founded to protect and promote the most spectacular concentration of modernist buildings east of the Mississippi.”
Built in 1948 and known as the Revere Quality House, the first house (below) is the pair’s earliest collaboration. The house was jointly commissioned by the Revere Copper and Brass Co. — if you’ve seen Revereware pots and pans, you know them — Architectural Forum magazine, and builders Lamolithic Industries. The idea was to show how copper could be used in residential design, plus a plan to meet the housing needs of returning World War II veterans.
The house blends elements of the International Style with site-sensitive design for tropical home construction. Rudolph’s plan was similar to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion: a 1,000 square foot, linear, flat-roof, single-story structure, to be constructed almost entirely of concrete and glass. Supported by steel columns, the low roof extends well beyond the house to create deep overhangs for shade; the overhang was extended even farther to serve as a carport. The exterior walls are made of lamolithic (reinforced concrete) panels, with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors opening to patio areas.
Extensively restored 2004, the interior showcases poured terrazzo flooring, while interior wall dividers, some of which feature built-in cabinets and drawers, are fabricated of plywood. Originally, the ceiling in the great room was painted a bright blue, to represent the sky, while the bedroom and kitchen walls were painted yellow.
The house was an unmitigated success. Many visitors toured it, and it won numerous awards. In fact, Twitchell liked it so much he married the owner, Roberta Finney, and lived there until his death in 1978.