Sarasota architect will scale back and focus on design

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.”

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