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  • 25 Dec 2017 10:54 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    A lofty development: Halflants and Pichette add ownership stake to design and construction services

    Renowned for the modern architecture in both their residential and commercial projects, Michael Halflants and John Pichette are embarking on a new endeavor — the complete development of their own property, adding ownership to project concept, design and construction.

    Halflants + Pichette Studio for Modern Architecture bought a vacant piece of property across Tamiami Trail from Whitaker Gateway Park, one of Sarasota’s waterfront parks. The partners, whose studio earned the American Institute of Architects’ award for Tampa Bay 2016 Firm of the Year, plan to build 21 condos over retail and parking in their Whitaker Lofts project.

    The structure promises to further enliven a stretch of the Trail that is already undergoing a renaissance. The project’s architecture will add visual appeal to the resurgent neighborhood.

    “It’s a bold modern design that curves around the site,” Halflants said. “The projection of balconies and the building recess will create a constant play of shadows throughout the day.

    “The ground floor facing the street will be glazed and lined with retail spaces. A wide exterior stair will serve as the residents’ gateway to the park. This opening will also serve as an opportunity for public art.”

    Whitaker Gateway Park will be far easier to access without risking a mad dash across the highway once the Florida Department of Transportation completes a planned roundabout at 14th Street and the Trail. Whitaker Lofts will rest on the land between 14th and 15th streets. The roundabout, Halflants said, “would slow down traffic and offer easy pedestrian connection with the park.”

    The location offered other compelling characteristics. “Jessica Simmons and Kim Cressell did a wonderful job in opening the neighboring Reserve coffee shop,” he said of the business that includes a and bookstore directly across 14th Street. “The site is also connected to downtown with the new iRide,” a free shuttle service.

    Besides Whitaker Gateway Park, Centennial Park and Pioneer Park are both a short walk away. The Rosemary District is only a few blocks farther. Three blocks to the north, the 160-unit Strand condominium project is being developed on Whitaker Bayou.

    “Four blocks north, Ringling College has been expanding its campus,” Halflants said. “I also enjoy the fact that Sasaki Associates has been selected to redesign the city’s nearby 42-acre waterfront.”

    And, in the future, Halfants hopes, an old rail line not too far away, will become an extension of the Legacy Trail, an 11-mile paved trail for biking and walking.

    “I live in Indian Beach and my office is in the Rosemary District,” Halflants said. “As such, the (Whitaker Lofts) site is halfway between my house and my office. I had been thinking about its development opportunities for a while.”

    The project is currently undergoing early site work, and floor plans, sales prices and a completion date have yet to be set. “We just purchased the piece of property this summer,” Halflants said. “We are only in the early design phase.”

    The units will range in size from 750 square feet garden units to 1,500 square feet, two-story units with private rooftop terraces.

    With Whitaker Gateway Park stretching from the Trail to Sarasota Bay, those terraces will provide unobstructed views of the bay and beyond. “The lower units will enjoy their own private gardens,” he said.

    The architect said development regulations complicated their project and are responsible for the high prices of downtown real estate. “The allowable densities in the City of Sarasota are far too low,” he said. “This has created a market of large luxury units.

    “While we are planning to offer a high level of finish, the units will be more efficient than other condominium projects under development and have a far more reasonable sale price.”

    By Chris Wille
    Real Estate Editor

    Posted Dec 22, 2017 at 4:26 PM

    While Halflants and Pichette have plenty of experience in design, they lacked one key element until seven years ago when Pichette became licensed as a contractor. “This allowed us to expand our services to also include construction,” Halflants said. “We’ve since completed 10 projects that we both designed and built.

    “Development was a logical extension. While we are focused on this first venture, we will continue to look for other development opportunities in the future.”

    The architects needed an additional player to launch the Whitaker Lofts project, an investor-partner.

    “I purchased the property this summer with Ash Nainar, who is a former client of ours,” Halflants said. “We recently designed and built a house for Ash and Noma on Anna Maria Island. Ash had enjoyed the process and we felt honored that he was willing to join in on a short notice to embark in a new design venture with our firm.”

    Why take on the additional responsibilities that come with an ownership stake? “We put a lot of thought into our designs,” Halflants said. “In the past 10 years, we were honored with more design awards from the American Institute of Architects than any firm in Florida. We know that design has value, yet we never earn more for designing a project well. Taking on the development reins would allow us to benefit from the design.”

    Halflants and Pichette have been working on a number of housing projects. “I’ve also been teaching the housing class at USF’s Graduate School of Architecture for more than 10 years,” Halflants said. “We are well suited to look at a multi-family site and understand its design and development potential.”

    He said he finds inspiration in the work of others who focus on quality in all phases of a project. “Florida certainly has its share of inconsiderate developers, but I’ve admired a number of developers we’ve been working with,” he said, citing Rosemary District-based Risdon Group President Steve Bradley; Karel Dudych of Rosemary District Development LLC; and Alex Hay, executive director of property with DRAPAC Capital Partners.

    They “are all able to look at a disused piece of property and imagine a better future,” Halflants said. “They have committed their resources to quality design with the intention of creating communities and an engaging pedestrian environment.”

    That sounds like the vision behind Whitaker Lofts.

  • 27 Nov 2017 9:44 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Chris Wille: Architects’ ‘shipshape’ design sure to make an impact

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    By Chris Wille
    Real Estate Editor

    Posted Nov 23, 2017 at 2:01 AM

    The eye-catching structure under construction on a small, triangular lot on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota looks like a large wooden ship about to sail right into oncoming eastbound traffic. No doubt this will attract stares. And a bit of awe.

    This is the solution that architects Javier and Javi Suarez came up with to placing the four-story Sabal Palm Plaza building on such a small piece of land while capitalizing on its commercial prospects. “We let the shape of the site determine the shape of the building,” Javi Suarez said during a tour of the new headquarters for both Sabal Palm Bank and Gilbane Building Co., the project’s contractor. The penthouse fourth floor, with the best views of downtown, is still available for lease. Every upper floor features an open terrace on the east side facing north, a nice complement to the interior break room.

    Javi Suarez, one of the two principals in Apex-Studio Suarez with his father, cites others for the “ship” description, not taking ownership of that expression. The safe bet is everyone else will immediately see a vessel — not just for the shape but for other building qualities, too. Javier is the principal in charge of the design.

    “Also, because of the curvature of Ringling, (the building) turns to face the road,” Suarez said. “So we wanted to make this beacon a landmark as you approach it heading east.

    “That was the genesis of the shape.”

    The bow of the Sabal Palm Plaza captures attention as much for the materials as the design. The wooden appearance comes from a resin composite with the warmth, quality and texture of wood, Suarez says. “It’s not a true wood veneer but it has a wood veneer look.”

    The wood look does not blanket the entire exterior, as stucco walls and abundant glass complete the bulk of the building.

    The curvature of the roof adds another element to the ship design — by placing thick, bent steel beams on the roof line as the sides gradually rise until reaching the apex at the top of the bow. “When you drive up Ringling heading east,” Suarez says, “what it does is emphasizes the perspective so it looks like the building is moving toward you rather than being static and flat.

    “That little bit of turn on it helps emphasize that movement.”

    A row of windows on an upper floor of the south side of the building could be interpreted as the ship’s bridge, with portholes appearing below, though Suarez did not establish that on our site tour.

    The project’s developer, Dr. Mark Kaufman, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is pleased with the outcome. “I and everyone I meet loves the design. It will be a Sarasota icon. Already is.”

    A hands-off developer

    Suarez is particularly grateful to Kaufman for his hands-off approach. “It was Javi’s design and he was given full leeway,” Kaufman said. “It was more expensive to construct, but for the future well worth it.”

    This is not the Suarezs’ first endeavor with Kaufman and it’s unlikely to be their last.

    “We have known Dr. Kaufman for many years and have worked with him in the development of several projects, including this one,” Javier Suarez said. “Given that background, we are really excited to see this building become a reality.

    “Our excitement is not only because of our long-term involvement but because we truly believe this building will become an icon in the city’s skyline.”

    Triangular buildings have been around for more than a century, the most famous being the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. That 22-story, steel-framed, brick landmark, completed in 1902, became a ground-breaking skyscraper soon copied elsewhere. About two dozen other structures around the nation carry the Flatiron Building moniker because they all resemble a cast-iron clothes iron.

    ‘Warm contemporary’

    The Suarez firm designed several other striking structures in the area, including the Rosemary District headquarters of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, with influences from the mid-century Sarasota School of architecture; and the Capstan Center, designed to define a new gateway to the historic Towles Court creative arts neighborhood and incorporate “the material language of the local bungalows on to the building itself,” Javi Suarez said. Another Suarez design is the modernistic North Port High School.

    “I would call the style of the (Sabal Palm Plaza) building contemporary and it is what we are most noted for,” Javi Suarez said. “Sometimes it has also been classified as ‘warm contemporary.’

    “All of our projects, including the Planned Parenthood building, have been influenced by regional approaches to the mid-modern movement,” he wrote in an email. “The Sarasota School of Architecture is one of them. Another influence for us has been the regional approach taken in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico and Cuba specifically), which integrate the use of natural materials such as wood and exposed concrete with the clean lines of the movement.”

    The company’s resume spans most of the architecture landscape, including cultural, institutional, educational, commercial, religious and residential projects.

    Inside, Sabal Palm Bank will occupy the first two floors, with executive offices above the lobby, teller stations and reception area. Interestingly, the bank will sport a cavern-like drive-through since there’s no extra space on the triangle for a traditional structure. Vehicles will drive through a two-lane S-shaped tunnel to reach tellers, an ATM and night depository inside and then exit onto Ringling Boulevard. Parking will be across the narrow Golf Street, with a garage possible in the future. The project had been slated to start of construction in 2008 but was stalled through the Great Recession.

    Dare we say this building could be a flagship site for a business headquarters?

    Chris Wille is the Herald-Tribune’s real estate editor. He can be reached at chris.wille@heraldtribune.com and 361-4805.

  • 16 Oct 2017 12:18 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    By Harold Bubil
    Real Estate Editor Emeritus

    Posted Oct 15, 2017 at 6:00 AM Updated Oct 15, 2017 at 12:53 PM

    After 40 years in the business, Guy Peterson will leave the “heavy lifting” to larger firms

    Something must be up for the first couple of Sarasota architecture.

    First, the prominent architect Guy Peterson sells his longtime office in downtown Sarasota.

    Then his wife of 37 years, Cindy, a professional archivist who has an honorary AIA designation from the American Institute of Architects, retires from both the Center for Architecture Sarasota and the Elling Eide Center, where she was chief operating officer.

    Guy Peterson: Coming full circle

    Then they list their house of 21 years at the corner of Field Road and Camino Real near the Field Club in Sarasota, for $2.6 million. Rumors swirl and questions are asked.

    No, they don’t know to where they are moving. But their new home must have a studio.

    That’s because Guy Peterson is not retiring. Peterson and his staff will finish the projects his firm, Guy Peterson Office for Architecture, has under way.

    Then, after 40 years in the business, he will scale back and focus on being a design architect and leave the “heavy lifting” to larger firms that will serve as architects of record. This is what he did with the Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park.

    “I’ve had my own firm for 38 years, but what I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Peterson said, “is becoming a sole practitioner. At this point in my career, I want to focus on what I really enjoy the most, which is design unique projects, and no longer provide the full level of services I had provided through my firm.”

    As a design consultant, Peterson would work with full-service firms to do the construction drawings and administration, and work with engineers and other professionals. Most of his work will be done from a home office.

    “It is a very positive thing, and something I am doing by design,” Peterson said. “I am still just as excited about architecture as at any point in my career, and I feel like my best work is still in front of me.”

    New pursuits

    Retirement for her, semi-retirement for him, “is going to free up more time to do more things together, to travel — things outside of work, which has essentially consumed us for nearly 40 years,” Guy Peterson said.

    “Cindy had this dream of creating an architectural center (at CFAS) ... and made it a reality with more than 500 members,” Guy Peterson said. “She felt like it was time to bring in some new energy. The future is very exciting for the center.

    “She brought CFAS to the point where it is in a really good place, sustainable. We both will be on the advisory board and she will continue to help with planning and events. But there is a time to start enjoying other things.”

    Travel is definitely a passion for the couple; they just returned from Paris. That will give the architect some additional artistic opportunities.

    “I have put all my energy into architecture for all these years, and there are other creative things that I would like to explore,” Peterson said. “One is playing some guitar, and also maybe try some painting.

    “I want to see if my architectural skills could translate into something else.”

    The architect as photographer

    Photography, perhaps? To illustrate this story, the Herald-Tribune asked Peterson, who, like most architects, carries a camera or sketch book, or both, while visiting great destinations, to photograph his own house. The goal was to show it from his perspective, rather than that of a journalist or a real estate photographer. (A few photos from award-winning Sarasota photographer Ryan Gamma also are used with this story.)

    Peterson took photography classes as an architecture student at the University of Florida in the mid-1970s. “That was ‘old school.’ I rolled my own film, and we’d get in the darkroom and develop and print. I really enjoyed photography; that is something I haven’t focused on.

    “I try to sketch more than photograph because I remember things more if I draw it rather than take a picture of it. Black-and-white photography is what I really enjoy.”

    But for shooting his own house, color photographs were a must.

    Peterson No. 004

    He designed the house in 1995 for his own young family in a small enclave of houses along Field Road. They moved in in 1996, and have made improvements in furnishings and amenities as careers have blossomed — Guy Peterson has won the AIA-Florida Gold Medal and also its Firm of the Year award — and finances allowed.

    The house is listed for sale at $2.6 million through Dede Curran of Michael Saunders & Co. It has 4 bedrooms and 4 baths in 4,600 square feet. The three-car garage is a separate building with ingress from Field Road. Above it is Guy Peterson’s design space, reached only by an exterior staircase. His collection of guitars there provide some distraction.

    The entry door leads not to a foyer, but the open courtyard/patio with pool and enclosed landscape, by Michael Gilkey, ASLA, beyond. Peterson calls it an “outdoor room.” The emphasis is on privacy.

    “It is completely enclosed with a courtyard wall system around the property.”

    It is the fourth house Peterson designed in his career.

    “It is a kind of a modern interpretation of a Charleston side-yard house. Because we are not on the water, but have a beautiful half-acre site, it is a house that faces a private garden to the south,” he said.

    “By making the house one-room deep, you get all this beautiful natural light in the house and the covered terraces.”

    Peterson said his design was inspired by the sequence of spaces at the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca Grande.

    “You open these beautiful wood doors and you think you are going into the library, and in reality you are going into a covered outdoor space. That was something I was experimenting with on this property.”

    Peterson has designed homes for clients that feature the strict, spare modernism championed by British architectural designer John Pawson, but there is not much of that here.

    The doors are mahogany. Inside, Mexican-tile floors, tongue-and-groove ceilings and birch plywood paneling in some sections, to complement the white walls, all create a cozier version of modernism — what has come to be called “soft modern.”

    Glass railings and glass block permit light where it is a want, but privacy where it is a need.

    The mildly pitched roof is an obvious departure from the modernist playbook. But it was required by the developer of the enclave.

    “There are things I might have done a little differently, I didn’t do because of the regulations. But I am happy how it turned out. Our boys were young at the time, and it was designed to be a house for raising our family and having a great home environment.”

  • 08 Oct 2017 9:19 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    By Harold Bubil
    Real estate editor

    Posted Oct 7, 2017 at 6:45 AM

    8011 Longbay Blvd. Guy Peterson, architect

    It’s not on the beach. It doesn’t have what you would call great boating water. In fact, you have to walk across the street to get to the dock.

    Despite those locational shortcomings, the gleaming, big-windowed mansion near the Sarasota-Bradenton airport, built for Annette Theissen in 1998, is an icon of contemporary architecture in Florida.

    Designed by Guy Peterson when he was still with Johnson Peterson Architects, the house is the ultimate expression of what I call “millennial modernism” in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

    With six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and three full kitchens (and several smaller ones) in 9,700 square feet, the house marked a transition for local modernism from the more modest beach houses to bona fide showplaces.

    Its location on the widest point of Sarasota Bay makes it a well-known landmark for boaters north of the Ringling mansion, Ca’ d’Zan.

    The house’s elevation, landscaping and windows make the most of its bay views while minimizing the view of Longbay Boulevard’s pavement.

    Cars certainly cannot be heard through the impact-resistant, insulated glass.

    Nor can jet aircraft at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, just across U.S. 41 to the east.

    “You don’t hear anything in this house,” said Realtor Kim Ogilvie, of Michael Saunders & Co., in a 2014 feature story on the house, which she had just listed for sale. White noise from the gurgling water in the foyer’s reflecting pool negates unwanted sounds.

    The Theissen Residence has been updated, so the house still has a timeless appeal despite its 20 years, which is considered old for a Bayfront mansion.

    The house most recently sold in July 2017 for $3.55 million.

    “It was pivotal in my career,” Peterson said of the Theissen project, which began in 1995.

    “Annette was an amazing client. Her charge to me was, ‘I want the architecture to speak for itself.’ The only other requirement was that she wanted to see the bay from her kitchen,” Peterson told the Herald-Tribune in 2014.

    “The rest of it is up to you,” Theissen told him.

    Peterson added, “She gave me a great deal of latitude to try and sculpt space. It did definitely serve as a stepping stone for me, and refocused my practice into primarily doing one-of-a-kind houses.”

    More recently, Peterson received the American Institute of Architects’ 2016 Gold Medal from its Florida/Caribbean chapter. The Guy Peterson Office for Architecture was named AIA Florida’s Firm of the Year in 2013.

    Information from a 2014 Herald-Tribune feature story was included in this report. “Florida Buildings I Love” is retired Herald-Tribune real estate editor Harold Bubil’s homage to the state’s built environment. Harold has prepared a PowerPoint slideshow for presentation to civic groups. Contact him at hfbubil@me.com.

  • 03 Sep 2017 2:32 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Cool construction

    By: Grier Ferguson | Staff Writer

    September 01, 2017

    The Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota

    The Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota

    The Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota was built for big rowing events hosted at the park, managed by the nonprofit Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates. The list of events includes a big one: the 2017 World Rowing Championships, scheduled for Sept. 23 to Oct. 1.

    Related Headlines:

    Cool construction Cool construction Cool construction Cool construction

    Architect Guy Peterson designed the Finish Tower, and Lakewood Ranch-based Fawley Bryant served as architect of record. With rules and regulations for rowing buildings set by international rowing governing body FISA, Peterson says he had to learn about specific standards for everything from size and height to visibility.

    The final result, Peterson says, is a glass box that cantilevers out toward the racecourse. Including the ground floor and roof, the tower stands six stories high. From the roof, Peterson says people can see downtown Sarasota — several miles away. During races, FISA representatives, media and members of the public will use the tower to watch events.

    “The site is so powerful,” Peterson says. “It’s such a big open space. The way the building takes advantage of the setting gives it a stature I’m really proud of.”

    • Project: Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park
      Builder: Construction division of Benderson Development Co.
      Architect: Sarasota-based Guy Peterson designed the building; Lakewood Ranch-based Fawley Bryant was the architect of record.
      Location: 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota
      Start Date: Groundbreaking in August 2015
      Completion Date: July 2017, with ongoing improvements continuing
      to be made
      Value: $5.8 million
      Size: Indoor space is about 9,000 square feet across all floors; outside space includes 6,300 square feet on the ground level, 4,600 square feet on the second level and a 2,600-square-foot roof.
      Challenges: The Finish Tower wasn’t built as a static monument to rowing. “It’s not just about design, it’s about functionality,” says Peterson. From the tower, he says, “you can see up and down the entire racecourse.”
      The building won an Honor award from the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects in 2016, which Peterson says is “not just a beauty contest” but speaks to a building’s ability to “react to the site” and how well it “solves the problem you set out to solve.”
      Green: Peterson says the building exhibits several features that represent energy-efficient design. That includes the high-performance patterned, fretted glass used, which filters out light, and the way the frame of the tower protects the glass.
  • 22 Aug 2017 3:55 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    By Harold Bubil
    Real estate editor

    Posted Aug 13, 2017 at 5:09 AM Updated Aug 17, 2017 at 8:49 AM

    We are always tempted to hype something that is new, or new to us, as “the best.” Especially when the topic is architecture.

    So when the woman in charge of the organizing committee for the 2017 World Rowing Championships said the new finish tower at Nathan Benderson Park is considered “the best in the world,” I thought, “Now that is a bold statement.”

    I asked Meredith Scerba to explain, following a Tuesday press tour of the new tower, designed by Guy Peterson OFA with Fawley Bryant as architect of record.

    She made a convincing case, as did Damien Blumetti, AIA, who performed construction administration for the Peterson firm.

    “We could not have hosted the world rowing championships without this building,” said Scerba, noting that representatives of the sport’s governing body made the “best in the world” statement following a recent visit.

    “FISA is thrilled; they are overwhelmed. It is beautiful and functional,” Scerba said. (FISA is the acronym for Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron, or World Rowing Federation.)

    “FISA has an extremely strict requirement for its finish towers,” Blumetti said. “They have to be a certain height, the camera has to be at a certain angle. They need the ability to open the windows to view the finish line. Requirements for where the judges sit.”

    The finish tower, which really should have a name but doesn’t yet, and perhaps should be referred to as the finish-line tower, exceeds FISA’s requirements.

    “So many of the finish towers have been designed specifically for those requirements,” Blumetti said. “This is a whole new genre of building for FISA. They have not seen something of this scale, and I think that is why they are deeming it the most impressive building. It’s not just for rowing.”

    The sport’s “technology and requirements keep changing,” Scerba said, noting that for existing venues, the finish towers are retrofitted rather than replaced. “This one is brand new, and the tallest with the most functional space,” at 102 feet and 25,000 total square feet, including the expansive outdoor terraces for race viewing.

    “They usually don’t have VIP/hospitality (space) in the finish tower,” Scerba said. “It becomes part of the whole experience. People get to go into an exclusive building that typically (at other venues) is locked down except for people running the competition. This one is integrated. It’s built for the long term and multi-purpose” use of SANCA, the nonprofit that runs Nathan Benderson Park.

    The tower’s design — described on my Facebook page by one commenter as “looking like his houses, except bigger” — is textbook Guy Peterson. The structure is functionally expressed with a reserved dignity, but also has a sculptural tone, given that it sits all by itself at the north end of the mile-long Benderson Park rowing course.

    The nearest large object is University Town Center mall, a half mile to the north.

    “This project represents something that is totally unique to me,” Peterson said. “The power of the building is accentuated by its presence on the site and the power of the big, open spaces. It becomes a beacon for rowing and for our community to enhance our built environment.

    “The flexibility of the building is something I’m really proud of. It’s the most unusual and unique building I have had a chance to work on.”

    Peterson’s houses have, at times, been controversial, with their explorations of geometry in gleaming white stucco. The Spencer House on Prospect Street at Orange Avenue is one of them, and his new mansion project that is under construction on the north end of Siesta Key is getting attention from neighbors and boaters.

    “I would rather design a building that people don’t like than one they don’t notice,” Peterson has told me in the past.

    That will not be a problem at Nathan Benderson Park. There is little existing built environment, so there are no neighbors to upset. And, considering its location near I-75, the tower will be hard to not notice.

    “The iconic nature of it is that it sits in this wide open space,” Peterson said. “It is not provocative, it’s functional. My goal was to build something that is obviously timeless, and, 20 years from now, not look like it was designed in 2017.”

    In preparing to design the structure, Peterson visited a fairly new finish tower of 7,500 square feet in Oklahoma City, and also one in Minneapolis.

    For the 2019 championships in Hungary, the firm BIVAK has designed not a finish tower, per se, but a long, skinny pavilion that looks like a large rowing shell hoisted on scaffolds.

    Peterson resisted such design puns.

    “Vincent James, an architect I admire, did the Minneapolis Rowing Club (tower), which is a simple wood structure,” Peterson said. “But the ceiling rotates like the skeleton of a shell, like paddles going through the water. There is a structural analogy to the act of rowing in the building, which I think is magical.

    “A building like this, I did not feel the need to make it look like an oar or do something like that. It would have been contrived. I wanted the building to be functional, but yet also expand its functionality. They are going to have concerts out here, and you can stand up here and watch.

    “It meets more than just the requirements. But constraints inspire creativity.”

    “There is a simplicity to it,” said Damien Blumetti. “We tried to pick up on the horizontality of the site, because the length of this venue is impressive.”

    Fact: The finish tower appears to sit atop a manmade island, but actually it is supported by pilings that are driven 70 feet to bedrock. While the sand stabilizes the pilings against lateral movement, the sandy island does not support the weight of the $5 million structure, said Stu Henderson of Fawley Bryant.

    The $5 million tower was paid for by the non-profit Nathan Benderson Community Park Foundation.

    About 40,000 people are expected to either compete in, support or attend the World Rowing Championships from Sept. 24-Oct. 1.

  • 03 Aug 2017 3:05 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Members of the local chapters of the American Institute of Architects and Construction Specifications Institute, along with the not-for-profit trade organization, Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange, are going to the dogs.

    They donated their time and resources to collaborate on the design and construction of several “interactive stations” that will be used by dogs sheltered at the Humane Society of Manatee County. These stations—elevated dog walk steps, a moving platform, pool deck and steps, socialization bench, a tunnel and therapy steps—are designed “to help dogs conquer fears, build confidence and gain human trust in order to become adoptable pets,” according to a Humane Society spokesman.

    The three organizations will hold an opening celebration to unveil their “Architecture for Animals” interactive stations at a Barkin’ Brunch Saturday morning, Aug. 12, at the Humane Society of Manatee County, 2415 14st St. W. in Bradenton. Details are provided at aiagulfcoast.org.

  • 24 Jul 2017 8:56 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Janet Minker, who in my presence, at least, has exhibited not a hint of ego, is taken aback to have won the Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the Florida-Caribbean chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

    The board chairman of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation says, “It is a bit overwhelming, because it is such a prestigious award.”

    She also adds, “It really is an award for SAF. I kind of stumbled into this organization and was so happy to pull pieces together.”

    AIA-Florida’s highest award for non-architects recognizes “interest, activity and concern for the profession of architecture” that advances “the cause of good design and planning,” and/or contributes to the “dignity and value of the architectural profession.”

    She will receive the award next weekend at the AIA convention in Naples.

    The award is named for the former Florida governor and U.S. senator whose interest in architecture led AIA-Florida to make him an honorary member.

    Minker earned the award through her tireless dedication to SAF’s mission of promoting awareness and preservation of Sarasota’s midcentury modern architecture.

    It is basically a full-time job, with no pay.

    But it does have benefits.

    “The benefits are meeting all these incredible homeowners and design enthusiasts,” she said. “And welcoming architects from all over the world who come here and want to see buildings by Paul Rudolph, Tim Seibert and Victor Lundy.”

    Under her leadership, SAF began the annual Sarasota MOD Weekend architecture event, based on Palm Springs Modernism Week, in 2014. The group also raised $250,000 to build a replica of Rudolph’s Walker Guest House, which was on display at The Ringling until April 30.

    As if that is not enough, Minker, a professional graphic designer, works with the SAF board to come up with ideas for tours, lectures and events, and also creates the graphic materials with which to promote them.

    “We save a lot of money by my doing that,” she said.

    The Maryland native moved here with her husband, Elliott Himelfarb, in 2009, after decades working in Washington, D.C. Twenty years ago, the couple visited her cousin in Sarasota and fell in love with the city.

    We have heard that story before.

    “As a designer, I love design, whether it is 17th century or 20th century,” she said. “When we first visited Sarasota, we walked around Lido Shores, and I had no idea who Paul Rudolph was, or the legacy of (developer) Phil Hiss. But we thought the houses were amazing. This is when many of the original houses were still on New Pass. I just thought it was a remarkable place.”

    She also convinced longtime friend and fellow public relations professional Dan Snyder to visit Sarasota. He, too, caught the Sarasota bug.

    For years, Snyder and Minker were virtually inseparable as they created a strong and vibrant organization with big dreams and the drive to make them real.

    “We joined because in 2012, Paul Rudolph’s addition at Sarasota High School was under threat,” she said of a building that now has been renovated and its exterior restored. “That kept us going in the early years, leading the fight to save it. It is a real jewel.”

    She said she gains strength, and creativity from the brainpower of SAF’s members, especially those on the board of directors.

    Coming up with event ideas and recruiting homeowners to open their houses for tours “is the most natural thing,” Minker said. “I have quite a long list of houses we want to see and tour. I would love to do more travel around Florida, and even California.

    “I hope always to be involved with SAF and give advice and suggestions, because there is a wealth of things to do and see.”

    Minker credits the SAF’s corps of “wonderful volunteers” for making events happen and serving as docents.

    “Our volunteers and members are so devoted and passionate about this design legacy,” she said. “They want to do everything they can to keep the buildings intact and preserve and restore them. You get a lot of energy from the big supporters and enthusiasts.”

    That is why, she says, “I am thrilled that the SAF does get some notice and recognition in the state of Florida, and that makes me feel wonderful.”

    As I said, no ego.

    Past winners of the Bob Graham Award from Sarasota include SAF co-founder Martie Lieberman, Center for Architecture Sarasota co-founder Cindy Peterson and the Herald-Tribune’s Harold Bubil.

  • 22 Jul 2017 11:04 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    By Harold Bubil
    Real estate editor

    Posted Jul 21, 2017 at 2:59 PM Updated Jul 21, 2017 at 2:59 PM

    Trade group emphasizes the value that architects add to homes

    Architects add cost to the home-construction process, but do they add value?

    As the state’s architects head to Naples later this week for the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects’ Florida/Caribbean chapter, that question is one that Joyce Owens, the chapter’s 2017 president, is spending the year trying to answer in the affirmative.

    Her theme for the year is “Communicating Value.”

    The highlight of the convention is the annual design awards presentation, and, as usual, Sarasota’s architecture community will be well represented, with awards won by Guy Peterson OFA, Seibert Architects, Carl Abbott Architect & Planner and Sweet Sparkman Architects.

    AIA Florida design awards

    For designing space in inventive ways, the AIA-Florida 2017 design awards will be presented to these Sarasota-area architects:

    • Guy Peterson / Office for Architecture, for the Elling Eide Center in south Sarasota (Honor Award for New Work). This 17,000-square-foot project was originally intended to be both a residence and library for the collections of noted Sinologist Elling Eide on Little Sarasota Bay near U.S. 41 and Beneva Road. After Eide's death, Peterson and his team converted the project, decades in the making, into a library, archives and study center for scholars of medieval Chinese literature and culture. "It was difficult for Elling to come to terms with doing this," said Guy Peterson of his client. "He would sometimes say, 'Let's just stop for a while.' And then we would talk, and talk, and talk, and he would get excited again. We just kept at it, and finally, it happened. I wish he were here to see it. There is nothing like it in Florida."

    • Seibert Architects, for the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca Grande (Merit Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation and Restoration.) Built in 1950, the library was updated with new electrical and mechanical systems, repairs and restoration of materials, and enhancements to accessibility by project designer Michael Epstein and interior designer Pam Holladay.

    • Carl Abbott, for his Caribbean Hillside Residence (Merit Award for Sustainable Design). FromAbbott's website: "This house is a viewing platform for water, land, and sky with sweeping views across the Caribbean to the volcanic island of Saba, and, in the other direction, distant mountains. The views, the breezes, light and shadow, and the seasonal changes of the sun determined the forms."

    • Carl Abbott, for the Women's Resource Center in Sarasota (Merit Award for "Test of Time"). Abbott: "This Center is a special place in the community to assist women. The spirit of the design is feminine — with gentle curved walls, sloped roofs and quietly elongated surfaces. From the exterior, the building is fortress-like, from the interior, intimate spaces lead to a cloistered courtyard protected by garden walls."

    • Sweet Sparkman Architects, for the Fruitville Elementary School addition (Merit Award for Masonry in Design). Architect Todd Sweet said the school district preferred brick as an exterior cladding because of his durability. His team worked to make it an art element and not just a shell. "Many brick buildings are traditional in appearance," Sweet said. "At Fruitville, we wanted to use this material, but in more of a contemporary fashion. The chosen brick itself is dense and square. The design team paid careful attention to the grout joints and running patterns. We spent weeks on developing patterns. The chosen design has every third course of brick projected a half-inch from the adjacent surface. This added visual interest to the facade, especially when shadows were cast." Sounds like something Victor Lundy would do.

    Individual honor awards will go to John Pichette of Halflants + Pichette Studio for Modern Architecture in Sarasota (Builder of the Year) and Sarasota Architectural Foundation board chair Janet Minker (Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award).

    An architect’s fee often, but not always, is 10 percent of the construction budget, but Owens said the real cost of an architect-designed house over the life of a 30-year mortgage is only 1 to 2 percent more than a house of similar size that was not designed by an architect.

    The reason, she said: Better planning, materials and functionality.

    “The cost of hiring an architect is so much less than people appreciate,” said Owens, who is based in Fort Myers.

    “They can save you money in design costs, if that is your goal,” Owens said. “Good architects will keep you within your budget. The architect has already drawn this thing and has understood it.”

    By using better and more appropriate materials, she added, “maintenance will be less.” Through the process of construction administration, the architect will check that the builder is using the correct materials.

    This is not to say that architects do not exceed budgets. Some of the most famous architects of the 20th century were infamous for busting budgets, and the problem is not confined to them.

    In fact, a “blown budget” just as often results from clients either not setting budgets or failing to reveal real numbers to their architects, said Charleston, S.C., architect Steve Ramos in his blog, BuildingsAreCool.com. Construction costs are commonly underestimated, especially when clients add expensive features during construction, he writes. The solution usually is “value engineering,” which is the “painful” process of reducing costs by removing features, using cheaper materials and/or making the building smaller.

    But, said Owens, the average architect does not have the stature of a Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright.

    “Those guys got a bad rap; they were artists who were pushing the limits and doing their best at the moment,” she said.

    “Everyday architects — as much as we would like to think we are — are not Le Corbusier,” she added. “We are in there doing our best for our clients and trying to be considerate of them and look after their money. Sometimes when we do push the limits, we fail, too. As architects, we have to be very careful when we push the limits. You have to be able to understand the science of building” first.

    The builder’s perspective

    Home builders who have constructed houses with and without architects perhaps can offer more objective viewpoints.

    For construction budgets exceeding $1 million, “I would consider an architect an indispensable asset,” said Ricky Perrone of Perrone Construction, a custom builder of luxury houses in Sarasota. “An architect’s skill set is simply at a far higher level than a draftsperson on Day One.

    “A license isn’t necessarily a free pass, though. There are huge differences in the capabilities of architects, from the excellent to the not-so-great, and these subtle differences can have major impacts on the cost of a project, the speed of construction, architectural appeal and the livability of the home, not to mention pride of ownership.”

    Josh Wynne of Josh Wynne Construction has won many building awards, both for his own design-build projects and architect-designed houses. Lately, he has built more of the latter.

    “There are many different kinds of architects out there,” Wynne said. “Each of them brings a unique experience and a different value.”

    Wynne emphasized that architects are not simply about design and artistry.

    “An architect’s first responsibility is to understand ‘the problem,’ ” he said. “The architect must be able to help the clients communicate their needs if there is to be any hope of delivering a design that is considerate of those needs.”

    The architect also must understand local, state and federal zoning and building codes, Wynne added. “And then there is the problem of using the land to its best potential. The last problem is always the budget.”

    At that point, Wynne-the-builder sees his architect collaborators “use artistry to turn blank paper into a concept that not only solves ‘the problem,’ but does it in a way that the structure complements, or enhances the natural environment.”

    That includes allowing for views, prevailing winds, sunlight, weather and the environment — a process that venerable Sarasota architect Carl Abbott famously calls being “In/Formed by the Land.” That is the title of a book about his work.

    “Once the schematic design is complete, the architect will have competently communicated the visual goals of the project,” Wynne said.

    At that point, the design team turns to details, he said. “Instead of resolving the grand gesture, the architect must formulate a means to resolve all of the details that combine to support the concept of the design. There is equal parts artistry, engineering and constructability.”

    Then, especially for large custom homes of a particular architectural style, the focus turns to structural engineering and mechanical design in the construction documents. Once construction begins, the principal architect or a staff architect will oversee construction administration.

    “It is impossible to draw enough detail to convey every single layer of the build process,” Wynne said, “so having the architect engaged throughout construction is imperative to getting those final details executed correctly.”

    Wynne, who is a skilled communicator himself, said architects are critical to both the design process and the lives of people in the community.

    “They, quite literally, give definition to space. It’s hard to put a value on that.”

    Realtors see a premium

    That is a job for local real estate agents, who are nearly unanimous in their belief that homes designed by architects sell at a premium.

    “Showing many homes, we see the same exteriors and floor plans over and over in many price ranges,” said Louise Hamel of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. “A property well-designed by an architect immediately presents as a home that is distinctive. There can’t be too much said about an interesting and functional floor plan that accommodates many kinds of owners.

    “Architect-designed homes take advantage of the site and are often built on a lot with special features that deserve to be highlighted. A top-notch architect is well worth the investment. ”

    Michael Saunders & Co. agent Marcia Salkin, joining Hamel and 20 other Realtors commenting on a Facebook post, points out that the top three houses sold in the Sarasota area in the past two years were designed by architects: two by Clifford Scholz and one by Mark Sultana, all at $7 million-plus.

    That does not mean, said Owens, that architects only design high-end homes. But she acknowledges that it is more work for architects to design to a budget that is exceptionally lean.

    “Anyone with the wherewithal to hire an architect wants it to look like the cool houses in the magazines,” Owens said. “Those houses generally cost more, whether modern or traditional; they have better finishes and better materials.

    “When I design house for a moderate budget, the owners will constantly push for the best. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. If you want a moderately priced house designed by an architect, you have to listen and keep the budget at the forefront.”

    And even well-known local home builders, including Lee Wetherington Homes and John Cannon Homes, employ architects in their firms.

    “Designs are changing,” said Wetherington, who makes sure his design team pays close attention to the budgets of his clients. “Architectural looks are the latest trend. Plain and simple. Clean. The market for these homes is expanding. I believe it has legs and will continue be a force in the market.”


  • 09 Jul 2017 11:10 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    By Harold Bubil
    Real estate editor

    Posted Jul 8, 2017 at 3:25 AM

    3251 Higel Ave., Siesta Key. Carl Abbott, FAIA

    Carl Abbott is one of Sarasota’s design legends. By his own admission, he does not design a lot of buildings. But the ones he does, he makes count.

    Winning “Test of Time” awards from the American Institute of Architects is pretty much an annual occurrence for Abbott. By paying special attention to a project’s site, he has created buildings that are still functional and vital after 25 years, which may not sound like a long time, but in Florida, where 10 years is middle-age for a new waterfront house, it is.

    There are still five years to go before this week’s “Building I Love” is eligible, but considering how it makes the most of a small site with a big view of Sarasota Bay and downtown, the Dolphin House could, indeed, win yet another “Test of Time” award someday.

    The house derives its name from the dolphins who tend to feed and linger just a few feet from its seawall where Bayou Louise connects to Sarasota Bay on the north end of Siesta Key. ”“They are there all the time,” he said.

    Abbott used his signature design tools — off-white coloring, industrial fenestration and handrails, huge panels of glass — to accentuate views and make memorable architecture. He also took the flat roof and skewed it out of level. The purpose was to direct the eye toward the bayou on the east side, and allow more sunset colors to enter the house from the west.

    More Video:

    Ribbon cutting planned for Fort Hamer Bridge

    “There are a lot of elements of this building that really tie into my words ‘informed by the land,’ ” said Abbott, referring to the title of a book about his work. “This house would not work anywhere else.”

    In “In/Formed by the Land,” Abbott writes, “The main view is to the north, across the wide bay to the city. I designed the great floating roof to also accentuate other specific views. The roof is a flat plane with each corner at a different height. To the west is the highest corner, aiming to the sky. To the east, a lower corner aiming down to the water of the narrow canal.”

    The central interior element is a grand living room that includes the dining area, with dramatic views through a double-height glass curtain wall.

    “In that big room,” said Abbott in a 2012 interview with the Herald-Tribune, “the walls are not parallel — the wall is to the west and the wall to the east. That is basically a reverse perspective to bring the city closer. It accentuates the perspective.”

    “Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s homage to the Sunshine State’s built environment. He has prepared a PowerPoint slide show for presentation to clubs and civic groups. Contact him at hfbubil@me.com.

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