The History of Sarasota Modern Design

In an earlier – we like to think simpler – time, Sarasota was a mere little town on the water. The glorious climate, lush sub-tropical foliage, access to water, the Gulf and the Bay, were all attractions that made the area compelling, and still do. But back in the late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s getting here was more difficult and time-consuming. Nonetheless, the draw was compelling and an increasing number of people of reasonable wealth and progressive outlook began to search for a place to spend winters and retirement.

These people were looking for a place that would provide shelter and comfort, but also embody a spirit of the times. The world was witnessing an emergence from the Depression and a new optimism was growing. They wanted a fresh vision, something new and original. And there was a small group of talented, energetic and artistic thinkers who had also found Sarasota and were welcoming them with their new ideas.

Among these, (I will focus this mostly on Paul Rudolf and his group) was a young architect who was starting his career. He was bright and creative, but young and inexperienced. He found employment with another architect and builder, Ralph Twitchell. Twitchell provided the young designer the guidance, experience and mentoring that served him well for many years. Rudolf became the creative force in the office, while Twitchell had the marketing, construction and office administration facilities already in place.

In the later 30’s and early 40’s these two started to put Sarasota on the national map of places of architectural interest. Their houses and buildings became published in the national press.

One of their notable contributions was a spirit of experimentation and innovation. Some of the houses are still standing and provide a great lesson in accomplishment of spacial modulation, respect of sunlight – both access to daylight and acknowledgment of the harshness of the midday sun and heat, and the use of natural ventilation. These were the days after all, before residential air conditioning.

One of my favorite houses, as an example, is the Umbrella House. While the name still sticks, the “umbrella” sadly is no longer in place. Located on Lido Key, it is really a modest house, of simple means, but great result. The exterior is paneled in vertical slats of cypress with outlines of white-painted wood trim. The street facade is a two-story exercise in restraint. It is solid on the left and right sides, with tall windows on each end, and a series of elegantly tall glass panels in the center, punctuated by the entry door.

Once you enter you are awed by the large central volume of space which wraps around you. The stair to the upper level and balcony overhead is immediately on your left, but your view is compelled forward through the house and out to the terrace, pool and pavilion beyond. The far wall of the central living space is all vertical glass panels and a series of glass doors opening out.

What is really clever and the main concept of the house is a free-standing “roof” structure that stands over the house and provides a visual and conceptual framework under which the house sits – the “umbrella”. Upon this framework a series of rafters and horizontal boards used to provide dappled shade and a marvelous sense of enclosure and protection. The original wood has since been lost to age and moisture, but one’s imagination can re-construct the framework and give one the feeling of what was a dramatic gesture and surely welcome relief from the harsher aspects of the elements, shading the terrace and especially the roof of the house, dramatically reducing the heat onto the structure.

The rest of the interior of the house is modest by today’s standards, but provides a serviceable and comfortable habitation. A master suite is at one end on the first floor, with the kitchen/dining area at the other. Upstairs are two matching bedrooms and baths, with some ingenious detailing, such as the cantilevered dressers with extend into the upper levels of the living room.

The developments that Rudolf embodied, continued as the 50’s progressed; they could be summarized by an enthusiasm for trying new things. The Second World War had brought new materials and technologies and Rudolf and others were anxious to try their hand at creating new forms and methods. Their goals were to capture the light, make open and airy living spaces, having flowing access to the outdoors, using new materials – plywood and plastics, using tried and true materials in new ways – concrete and the handsome local lime block.

Of course, Paul Rudolf was led to other commissions as his career and talent became well known. Many residential projects were built here, and quite a few remain. He designed two high schools in the area, one of which we have now sadly lost. And he has a few commercial projects still standing as well.

During this time he also received commissions for the US embassy in Amman, Jordan as well as speaking engagements in South America for the State Department. His career soon propelled him to head the department of architecture at Yale University, not only teaching and heading the school, but also designing its landmark brutalist building that was an icon for its era, matriculating if you will, not only from Sarasota, but from the style and milieu that he was seminal in helping create.

While the Sarasota School is now considered a point of time, now long ago, the legacy is a living one. We can admire the remaining examples of that original core group, and also honor the continuum of modern design by architects and designers now practicing in Sarasota. There are certainly some notable and remarkable talents still at work in our (now not so little) town. One doesn’t need to travel far to see some interesting and “edgy” designs that still proclaim a unique and personal vision of contemporary design. Stark, planar, angular, strong, colorful and daring are words that evoke some of these more successful projects that are found in our landscape and enrich our community.

Variety is the spice of life, and our stew is nicely seasoned here in Sarasota with designs modern in the past and contemporary in the present.

Why Rajasthan Tour Must Be on Your Wish-List Before You Die?

Being the largest state of India area-wise, Rajasthan not only boasts of varied topography in the form of desert, hills, forest etc but also a rich culture mixed with different traditions and customs which is quite unique to this state. What makes Rajasthan apart from other states is also the continuing royal legacy of erstwhile Rajas and Maharajas in the State and most of the families living the same royal lifestyle yet. Each city has an associated interesting history of myths and legends which are still remembered and told to tourists. The exquisite architectural monuments including arching giant forts and large palaces, exotic wildlife and a range of fairs also distinguish it from other states in more profound ways.

Thus ten reasons why it compels to visit this beautiful and colorful state of Rajasthan North India are as follows:

1. Architecture: Wonderful forts and palaces like City Palace, Lake Palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Junagarh Fort, Golden Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Amber Fort, Neemrana Fort, Castle Mandawa Fort, etc. are some of the grand heritage sites. Few of them like Umaid Bhawan Palace, Neemrana Fort & Palace are converted to hotels which offer Royal hospitality and luxury.

2. Rich Folk Culture: Although every city in the state owes to itself different and unique customs, traditions, habits etc, the whole experience of witnessing folk dance and listening to folk music is delight to eyes and ears as both are performed in melody encompassing use of local musical instruments and colorful woven costumes.

3. Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries: Rajasthan is abode to various endangered and exotic species of animals and birds. Three of India’s major wildlife and bird sanctuaries; Ranthambore National Park, a tiger reserve, Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary where antelopes, leopard, tigers, gazelles, waterfowls etc are usually seen and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary which welcomes migratory birds from abroad every year are animal lover’s delight. Some of them include safari rides too for adventurous tourists.

4. Fairs & Festivals: Various theme based fairs and festivals are an important part of Rajasthan culture which invite spectators from all over country in huge numbers. The most popular one is the Pushkar Fair where camel racing, cattle fair, moustache competition, etc are the major attraction.Camel dance competitions are also held. Other fairs include Marwar Festival, Desert festival, Baneshwar Fair, Elephant festival etc which depict the true culture of Rajasthan.

5. Excellent textiles, handicrafts, gemstones: Rajasthan is unique to various techniques of art forms on fabric, wood and marble which are decorated with finesse depicting the rich tradition of the state. Meenakari, enameled silver and gold jewelry, hand block printing, zari work on textiles and embroidered jutis etc are quite beautiful and colorful.

6. Temples: Dilwara temples, Brahma temple in Pushkar, Birla temples etc are known for their great architectural magnificence and distinct style of their structure. They also attract pilgrims from far and wide.

7. Sand dunes: Major portion of Rajasthan is covered with sand dunes of Thar desert which offers picturesque sight of different shapes of dunes at different times and location.

8. Food: The tour to Rajasthan is incomplete without savoring some of the mouth watering cuisines such as dal-bati, besan-chakki, churma, jhajariya, gevar, balusahi, tarfini, raabdi, bail-gatte. The most interesting fact of Rajasthani dishes is that they are mostly cooked in pure ghee leaving wonderful aroma after you finish the food. In cities like Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, food is prepared with minimum water and more of milk and buttermilk are used instead. Mewa Kachori of Jodhpur, Dil jani of Udaipur, Malpuas of Pushkar, Ghevar and Mishri Mawa of Jaipur and Sohan Halwa of Ajmer are also some memorable food items.

9. Adventure sports: Being the oldest mountain ranges in India, Aravalli ranges are the best place for trekking and other adventurous activities because these are bounded by dense forests, lakes, meadows etc. Mount Abu, the only hill station in Rajasthan is also nestled in Aravallis which is a popular tourist destination.

10. Lakes: Udaipur is also known as city of lakes as many beautiful lakes like Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Jaisamand Lake, Rajsamand Lake, Doodh Talai, Udai Sagar Lake, etc are situated here and surrounded by sprawling gardens making the landscape beautiful.

Sacred Land of the Heart – Spirituality of the Soul’s History

I can only imagine the tremendous value of the land so far as both the people of antiquity and the Indigenous are concerned. I have to concur. The Land, for me also, has tremendous power and significance about it. Land is sacred to the heart. Our histories are indelibly attached to it.

I took the opportunity recently to re-trace some of my personal heritage. I have found that cherishing the land is a big part of cherishing my heritage–it’s about cherishing the very parts that have ‘become me.’
Re-tracing my heritage “trails” involved both old land and new land; reflecting over times significant in the past as well as foreseeing the significance of events–or certainly landmarks–of the future.

Watching the land is amazing. How it changes. A place I went back to was the land of my grandmother’s–I stayed with her for a few months, now over twenty years ago. She has since passed away long ago and the block of units we lived in has long been swept away. The whole area looks vastly different. I also visited my favourite university cafĂ© and found the menu had changed–no more cheap and ‘to die for’ food there! And whilst these things had changed, the land had not. I’m thankful to God for that fact!

What of the New Land?

A time of change is not just sad, it’s a happy time too as we gain anticipation of what the new time–a new season–might bring. New routines, new surroundings–a totally fresh environment. Watching the land gives way also to respecting the land. It’s vital that we respect it; not simply physically–but spiritually too. To cherish the land’s role in our lives, and let the memories live on; this is what I mean.

The land is inherently part of our heart. It is sacred just as our hearts are. The testimony of our memories gives the land this treasured legacy as both the means to and manifestation of our heart. The Land is the context of life. It is God’s landscape for meaning.