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Cocoon House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 3575 Bayou Louise Lane, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Cocoon House photo

The guest house located at 3575 Bayou Louise Lane is significant as an architectural expression and for its technological innovation. The structure has contributed to Sarasota's reputation as a place of fluorescence during the Florida Mid-Century Modern period. While it is not of great age, having been constructed in 1948, its eminence as a landmark, if preserved, is unquestioned. The structure's association with two great architectural masters is an integral factor in the structure's significance.

The Healey Guest House, or "Cocoon House", was designed by Ralph S. Twitchell and partner Paul Rudolph in 1948. The structure was built as a guest house for a member of the Twitchell family. The architects had formed a partnership several years earlier drawing upon each other's abilities and interests.

Ralph Spencer Twitchell had worked in Sarasota since the 1920's when he served as office supervisor for Dwight James Baum. That office completed work on Sarasota's best known Mediterranean Revival buildings including the Ca 'd Zan, The El Vernona Hotel (later known as John Ringling Towers), the El Vernona Apartments (now known as Belle Haven Apartments), the Sarasota Times Building and the Sarasota County Courthouse.

After the Boom, Twitchell practiced in the northeast U.S. until returning to Sarasota to an open office in the early thirties.

Twitchell's work during the 1930's and 1940's was largely residential designs, providing construction services as well through his Associated Builders firm. Twitchell designed the Lido Beach Casino, which became a landmark for its fanciful seahorses and modern lines. Twitchell worked with many aspiring architects who later became very successful including Jack West and Paul Rudolph.

The basis for much of Twitchell's work, including after his association with Paul Rudolph, was in the use of innovational materials, successfully addressing Sarasota's climate, bringing the outdoors indoors, simplicity of design, and custom treatments for each client's needs. While those elements were not the sole property of Twitchell, an atmosphere of inspired architecture prevailed in Sarasota spanning the 1950's and 1960's, which has become known in architectural circles as the Sarasota School of Architecture.

The Cocoon House was selected in 1953 by the New York Museum of Modern Art as one of the 19 examples of houses built since World War II as a pioneer design foreshadowing the future. The structure has been the subject of considerable study, appearing in most of the major architectural periodicals of the time. Today the structure is a regular topic in architecture school curricula.

The house was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1985.


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