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A Showcase of Sarasota Architecture

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Elaine Rogers, former Preservation Assistant
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - A Showcase of Sarasota Architecture photo

In the 1950s, a new style of architecture sprang up in a development off the north end of Lido Key on an island in Sarasota's New Pass.

Lido Shores began as a vision of Phillip Hiss, an accomplished writer, photographer and traveler, who moved to Sarasota in 1948. Hiss was drawn to Sarasota because of the work of Paul Rudolph, an outstanding young architect who is now recognized, along with Ralph Twitchell, as one of the founders in the Sarasota School of Architecture. With Rudolph and other Sarasota architects, such as Ralph and William Zimmerman, Hiss hoped to build speculative modern homes.

Hiss, born in 1910 in Brooklyn, was a man of independent means. This allowed him to begin his career in real estate development and to open his own firm, Phillip Hiss Associates, Inc. This new career fostered a life-long interest in architectural design and provided a critical link between Hiss and many of the young architects who would prove influential in the International Modern movement.

Hiss promoted Lido Shores as a place where hot-weather problems would be solved through the inspiration of the South Seas. Using homes he had seen in the tropics as examples, Hiss designed homes on Lido Shores that offered the cooling effects of cross ventilation while reducing exposure to the sun. Buildings such as Hiss's own studio and Paul Rudolph's' Umbrella House were done in the International Style while still employing design techniques to allow for solutions to hot-weather problems.

The Umbrella House, built in 1953, is a two-story, wood-frame, rectangular residence. The rear wall of the house is composed entirely of glass – jalousie windows, and three sliding glass doors offer a view of the pool and the surrounding landscape. The front of the house also features jalousie windows, framed with Florida red heart cypress siding. When opened, these widows allow the salty breeze of the Gulf of Mexico to flow through the house. The flat wood “umbrella” lattice over the roof and pool area would provide protection against the sun during the day. The umbrella was damaged during a storm in the late 1960s and subsequently removed.

The focus of the interior is the two-story living room, separated from the foyer, dining room and hearth area not by walls, but by variations in floor and ceiling levels. A stairway leads from the foyer to a bridge upstairs, which connects the two upstairs bedrooms on either side of the living room. The bridge is open to the living room and gives a sensation of floating over the room below.

Considering the multiple levels throughout the house, this is hardly the only element that seems to be disconnected from the ground. The house itself appears to be floating over the landscape.

The Lido Shores development remains today a showcase for many architects associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture, as it represents one of the largest concentrations of their work.