Sarasota School of Architecture
Sarasota School of Architecture
Carl J. Abbott, Jr. (b. 1936) has maintained a practice in Sarasota for over four decades. After receiving his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from the University of Florida, Abbott studied under Paul Rudolph at Yale University and received his Master’s Degree in Architecture in 1962. First practicing in Sarasota with Bert Brosmith and in Hawaii with Joe Farrell, Abbott then went on to work with I. M. Pei and Associates in New York City. In 1966, Abbott opened his own firm in Sarasota.
Abbott is one of the most highly awarded architects in the Florida/Caribbean region. His regional recognitions include many AIA Florida awards, including the 1986 Medal of Honor for Design, the Architectural Firm Honor Award, and the greatest number of Test of Time Awards ever presented for “architectural designs of enduring significance.” Abbott was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1986 and has also received Millennium Magazine’s Millennium Award as “one of the outstanding architects of the 20th century.”
Abbott is a Distinguished Architectural Alumnus at the University of Florida and has lectured and taught in Europe and the USA at such venues as the World Monuments Fund, Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, the Paul Rudolph Foundation, Docomomo International, Yale University, and Harvard University. A monograph of Abbott’s work, In/Formed by the Land, was published in 2012 by ORO Editions.
Abbott is strongly informed by the subtropical climate of southwest Florida and the sacred architecture of the Ancient Egyptians and the Maya – specifically, the ways in which their designs responded to the land and the movements of sun and stars.
Berthold Allan “Bert” Brosmith (1928-2015) was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and after serving as a photographer for the US Army Corps in Japan (documenting General MacArthur), studied under famed architect Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1952 with a degree in architecture. Between 1955-60, Brosmith ran Paul Rudolph’s architectural office at a time when Rudolph was mostly traveling between Sarasota and the northeast. During this time, Brosmith was the site architect for all of Rudolph’s projects, including the high-profile Riverview High School (1958) and Sarasota High School Addition (1960) projects.
When Rudolph permanently left Sarasota, Brosmith opened his own firm. His best-known Sarasota projects are the residential addition to Tim Seibert’s Hiss Studio on Lido Shores, a juvenile detention facility on 17th Street with Frank Folsom Smith, and the Dorotha Dawson Residence on Indian Beach Drive. Brosmith was also the site architect for I.M. Pei’s New College dormitory project, built in 1964. Carl Abbott was Brosmith’s single employee at this time.
In the mid-1960s, Brosmith moved to New York City to work with Perkins and Will. In 1969, he founded Juster, Brosmith, Levine architects in New York and then founded Bert Brosmith Architecture in Katonah, NY, in 1978, focusing on residential projects for more than thirty years.
Donald Conrad Chapell (1944–1999) graduated from the University of Texas in 1968 and at first worked as an apprentice to Paul Rudolph in New York City. After starting his own firm, Chapell designed many beach houses in The Hamptons on Long Island during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Chapell purchased 150 Morningside Drive on Lido Shores in 1983, but did not move permanently to Sarasota until 1991. While building his home and office on that lot, Chapell lived in and renovated the Goull Residence next door, designed by Philip Hiss in 1954. Chapell died in 1999, six months before the completion of his masterpiece house/studio.
Joseph George Frances Farrell (1932–2021) was born in North Carolina and moved to Sarasota with his family in 1947. Between 1950-54, Farrell attended the University of Florida, working in the summers for Paul Rudolph. Following US Army service in Europe, Farrell returned to UF and completed his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree in 1959. Upon graduation, Farrell was first employed by architect Carl Volmer and then in partnership with William Rupp between 1959-61. During this time, Rupp and Farrell designed many office buildings, residences, and banks, as well as the Scott Building at 265 S. Orange Avenue, the current home of Architecture Sarasota.
From 1961 onwards, Farrell practiced in Honolulu, Hawaii, as an associate and later partner of Lemmon, Freeth, Haines, & Jones (now Architects Hawaii Ltd), designing buildings in Hawaii, Micronesia and Palau. In 2017, Farrell retired to Sarasota where he was active in the architectural community. In 2020, the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows awarded Farrell the prestigious designation of Design Fellow (FAIA), noting him as “an internationally-recognized Subtropical Modernist.”
Philip Hanson Hiss (1910–1988) was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 20, Hiss began globetrotting and independently toured South America on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. As an amateur anthropologist and photographer, Hiss published two books describing the customs, art, and architecture of Bali (Bali, 1941) and the Dutch Antilles (Netherlands America, 1943). Following World War II, Hiss first worked in the US diplomatic service in Holland and then settled in Sarasota in 1948.
Beginning in 1949, Hiss began developing the Lido Shores neighborhood of Lido Key, Sarasota. Though not an architect by trade, Hiss contributed much to the architectural scene of Sarasota by sponsoring many of its formative architects and also by designing some of houses in the neighborhood, including three for himself, as well as others on Longboat Key and the mainland. In 1956, Hiss became Chairman of the Sarasota County School Board and spearheaded a major schools development project, commissioning over a dozen new school buildings from Sarasota School architects Mark Hampton, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Paul Rudolph, William Rupp, Jack West & Elizabeth Waters and Ralph & William Zimmerman. In 1958, Hiss received a Ford Foundation grant to establish New College, served on its first Board of Trustees, and commissioned I.M. Pei to design a master plan for the institution, as well as build the East Campus Dormitories in 1964. Hiss left Sarasota for London in 1965 and died in California in 1988.
Gene Robert Leedy (1928–2018) was born in West Virginia, and moved to Gainesville, Florida, in the late 1940s with his family. He attended the University of Florida and earned a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree in 1950. Upon graduation, Leedy moved to Sarasota, first working with father-and-son team Ralph and William Zimmerman, then becoming the first employee of Paul Rudolph’s independent practice. Leedy became a registered architect in 1952, served in the US Air Force for two years and then established his own firm in Sarasota. In 1955, Leedy moved this practice to Winter Haven, Florida, where it remained for the rest of his life. In addition to his Winter Haven projects, Leedy continued to design notable buildings in Sarasota such as Brentwood Elementary School with William Rupp (1958) and the residence/studio of abstract expressionist Syd Solomon (1970). While Lido Shores developer Philip Hiss first used the phrase in a 1967 Architectural Forum article, Leedy is credited with formally uniting the group of architects under the term “Sarasota School” at the 1982 AIA Florida annual convention.
Victor Alfred Lundy (b. 1923) was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents. Lundy studied architecture at New York University before World War II. After the war, he completed his studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design under the instruction of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.
Lundy moved to Sarasota in 1951 and immediately began to contribute to its highly active intellectual and creative environment. Many of his designs deviated from the standard, angular silhouettes of other Sarasota School buildings through the employment of curvilinear forms. Also in contrast to the other Sarasota School architects, most of Lundy’s Sarasota commissions were commercial and institutional projects, only realizing a total five houses in the area. Lundy moved his practice to New York in 1960 and to Houston in 1976, where he continued to produce innovative designs similar to those in Sarasota. His monumental U.S. Tax Court Building in Washington, D.C. (1965) was described by prominent architecture critic Ada Louis Huxtable as a “progressive, sensitive, contemporary solution fully responsive to Washington’s classical tradition and yet fully part of the mid-20th century.” In 2014, the General Services Administration released a documentary about the long life and work of Lundy, freely available on their website.
Paul Marvin Rudolph (1918–1997) was born in Kentucky. He graduated from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1940 and worked with Sarasota architect Ralph Twitchell during the summer of 1941 before attending Harvard University and, like Lundy, studying under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.
Following wartime service at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Rudolph returned to Twitchell’s office in 1946, becoming an associate in 1948 and full partner in 1950. Rudolph split from Twitchell in 1951 but stayed in Sarasota, where he continued to design groundbreaking structures under the patronage of Philip Hiss such as the Umbrella House (1953), Riverview High School (1958) and Sarasota High School Addition (1960), as well as many private residences. Rudolph left Sarasota permanently in 1960 when he became the Chair of Yale University’s Department of Architecture. Rudolph would occasionally return to Florida to design houses and municipal buildings across the state.
In 1966, Rudolph established a practice in New York City and continued to design significant structures around the world including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan and was active up until his death in 1997. With an impressive number of buildings to his name in Sarasota and the world, Paul Rudolph is considered one of the most pre-eminent members of the Sarasota School. His pioneering use of site-responsive design and adaptable materials continue to inspire artists and architects in our own time. His iconic buildings serve as valuable examples of the movement and epitomize the best of critical regional modernist architecture in the U.S. and around the world.
William John Rupp (1927–2002) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from the University of Florida in 1953, after which he worked in the office of Paul Rudolph until 1955 and then established his own office in Sarasota.
Rupp, partnering at times with Gene Leedy and Joe Farrell, stayed in Sarasota until 1965, after which he moved his office to Naples, Florida. In 1968, Rupp moved to New York City to work for Morris Ketchum, Jr. and in 1972 to Amherst, Massachusetts to work for Callister, Payne, and Bischoff. Between 1978-1995, Rupp taught full-time at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and was Director of the Architectural Studies and Interior Design Programs. In 1989, he co-authored the book Construction Materials for Interior Design with UMA colleague Arnold Friedmann. Rupp died tragically in 2002 when a fire swept through the house that he had designed and built himself.
Edward J. “Tim” Seibert (1927–2018) was born in Seattle and moved to Sarasota with his family in 1942. After studying art at Stanford University between 1947-1950, Seibert attended the University of Florida, receiving his Bachelor’s of Architecture degree in 1953.
Seibert opened his own office in Sarasota in 1955, which continues today as “Seibert Architects.” He designed many award-winning private residences and public buildings in the Sarasota and Southwest Florida area. A majority of the condominiums on Longboat Key were designed by Seibert, with the Bayport Beach and Tennis Club (1980) being the most notable.
Seibert was a life-long and avid sailor who, in addition to award-winning buildings, also designed award-winning wooden boats, particularly after his retirement from architecture and move to Boca Grande, Florida.
Frank Folsom Smith (b. 1931) was born in Philadelphia but his family subsequently moved to Virginia Beach in 1932. Smith is a 1959 graduate of the University of Virginia, with degrees in both architecture and economics. He first worked with Sarasota School pioneers Ralph and William Zimmerman as well as Victor Lundy before opening his own firm in 1961 after commissioned for the Lawyer’s Professional Building on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. In 1966, Smith was at the leading edge of retirement center design with Plymouth Harbor, which received an AIA Honor Award that year, as well as an AIA Test of Time Award in 1991. Smith’s Terrace Condominiums on Siesta Key (1970) was also forward-looking with its 80-ft clear spans.
In 1969, Smith designed the 12-acre, 113-unit Sandy Cove development on Siesta Key, producing a variety of clustered residences with a community feel despite its large size, which also won an AIA Honor Award. In the 1980s, Smith acquired and rehabilitated over 20 downtown Sarasota buildings from the 1920s, several of which achieved listing on the National Register of Historic Places and subsequently became known as the “Burns Court Historic District.” Smith’s Conrad Beach development, a 27-home infill neighborhood on Longboat Key, was cited as the “Community Development of the Year” by Coastal Living Magazine in 2001.
Ralph Spencer Twitchell (1890–1978) was born in Ohio and first became acquainted with Florida when his mother brought the family down south every winter. He studied architecture at Rollins College and pursued graduate study at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and then Columbia University in New York. Twitchell first came to Sarasota in 1925 to supervise the construction of John Ringling’s “Ca d’Zan” for New York architect Dwight James Baum.
Until 1936, Twitchell spent his summers in Connecticut and his winters in Sarasota, eventually moving full-time to Sarasota and establishing his own architectural practice and construction company. Inspired by the modern architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the 1940s Twitchell experimented with reinforced concrete and the Art Deco style. In April 1941, Twitchell employed the recent architecture graduate Paul Rudolph as a draftsman, who would later become an associate and then full partner before splitting from Twitchell in 1951. Twitchell would later partner with Jack West and his son Tollyn Twitchell, practicing architecture well into the 1970s.
In 1935, Twitchell was thrown out of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) because he simultaneously ran an architect’s practice and a construction company. In practice, this did not matter much because, at that time the AIA was merely a club and not the regulatory body that it is today. In 1976, two years before his death, the AIA reversed its decision and recognized Twitchell for his career achievements, giving him the title “Architect Emeritus.”
Jack West (1928–2010) graduated from Yale University Architecture School and came down to Sarasota to work in the office of Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph in 1949. West would eventually partner with Twitchell between 1953–54 and then with Elizabeth Boylston Waters between 1956–60, and engineer Al Conyers between 1966–96. West’s most notable buildings include the Myrtle West House, for his mother, on Siesta Key (1952), the Nokomis Beach Pavilion (1954), the Hilton & Dorothy Leech Art Studio (1960, known today as “The Round House”), Sarasota City Hall (1966), and the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Manatee County, Sarasota (1974) – renovated in 2009 by Gateway Bank. Because he was commissioned to renovate the Nokomis Beach Pavilion in 2008, this was West’s first and last project of his independent career.
Father-and-son team of Ralph Waldo (1889-1976) and William Wallace (1916-1981) Zimmerman were originally from Chicago. Ralph’s father, William Carbys Zimmerman (1859-1932) was also an architect. Ralph moved to Sarasota in 1937 and William, after attending MIT for architecture, followed his father in 1944. Together they are responsible for about a dozen residences in Sarasota, as well as the original Brookside Junior High (1955) and Booker Elementary School (1957). Ralph retired in 1957 and went sailing to the South Pacific in a boat that he had built by himself. In 1961, William moved his architectural office to Naples, Florida, until 1974 and then moved to Berkeley, California, where he was its City Planner until his death in 1981.