Sarasota - Part 2

My aunt lives in Sarasota and, when I got called down there for a funeral, I immediately started to think about how I could fit in some architecture. I had heard of the Sarasota Modern Movement that occurred after World War II and that was lead by Paul Rudolph and a number of his acolytes. In preparation of the trip I reached out to the Sarasota Architecture Foundation (SAF) and was immediately called back to arrange a private tour of Rudolph's recently refurbished Umbrella House of 1952 located on Lido Key. SAF and the City of Sarasota both offer an excellent free architecture guide with maps.

The Umbrella house is both small and monumental. The actual indoor living areas occupy only about 40% of structure's volumes. The balance is devoted to the brise soleil, the giant wooden sunscreen that spans the entire building. While there are two floors inside, the exterior facade suggests a single story building that is almost public in scale.

This house is both modern and classical. It's plan is symmetrical in both directions . It is comprised of a regularly spaced column grid (3 bays wide by 7 bays deep) based on a module originating from the ubiquitous jalousie windows. From afar the building appears almost like an ancient temple, that is a temple to shade. Yet Rudolph subverts the classical. First, one enters through the central glazed bay though the bright yellow door is positioned off-center. Second, the living spaces are enclosed is a simple box that appears to slip relative to the fixed column grid. Third, and once inside, there is a straight-run stair running along the facade that creates a Corbusian slot of double-height space.  Rudolph proceeds to hang the second floor common space off the columns with cantilevered projecting edges. The rear facade facing the pool is all glass.

The architectural finishes are prosaic though the furniture, not original and likely chosen by others, is decisively mid-Century Modern with an exquisite bedroom headboard and an illuminated bookcase both designed by George Nelson. As part of the refurbishment, the exterior "umbrella" surrounding the pool was rebuilt and while, it was originally constructed of wood, it has now been recreated in aluminum. Though I'd like to have seen the original wooden structure, I wonder how it ever stood up given the choice of wood, rather than metal, and its exceedingly high slenderness ratio (a ration of a column's height to cross-sectional area).

The columns, taken by themselves, like those on the Walker guest house are interesting because each column is composed of two posts with a slot of space between them. In other words, Rudolph has inverted the idea of column by having it capture space rather than just displacing it.


While I was in Lido Key, I went around the corner to see Ruldoph's Martin Harkavy House of 1957. I could not go in or see much beyond the streetscape. The has has been added on to with the original Rudolph portion of the house is on the left and the newer chunky box on the right. Rudolph's part has an elegant delicacy tailored specifically to the warm climate with thin framing, deep overhangs, and finely scaled screens.