Buildings: Sarasota History
The Craig Residence is located in the Lido Shores neighborhood, an area of the city now recognized for offering a high concentration of architecture associated with the "Sarasota School." Philip Hiss created this enclave of great architecture as landowner, developer, amateur architect, and patron of the arts. He designed or commissioned houses to respond to the coastal Florida climate and employ progressive principles of design: goals that the Craig Residence addresses successfully.
By 1955, the date of the original house, more than twenty homes had been built in Lido Shores. Many of these houses-most notably Paul Rudolph's "Umbrella House" were heavily published in the national press. House and Garden offered thirteen pages on Hiss and Lido Shores in 1954. Writer Willard Temple, who lived in Lido Shores at this remarkable time, noted in his novel, Every Day is Sunday, that sightseeing buses were routed through Lido Shores to offer the general public a look at this remarkable new architecture.
The house was designed and built in 1955 for the DeVries family by Sarasota architect Edward J. Seibert. Originally, it was used only as a seasonal residence. When Mr. and Mrs. Walter Craig purchased the house in 1958, they commissioned Seibert to add the new, high-ceiling living room. This addition permitted what was once a modest family room to be used as a dining room. The living room addition, along with a pool and pool cage designed by the architect, were completed in the summer of 1959. The additional square footage made it possible for the residence to be used as a full-time residence by the Craig family, who moved to Sarasota from New York with their young daughter.
Mr. Craig retired to Sarasota from his work in New York, where he'd led a career which began in vaudeville, progressed to radio show production, and culminated in advertising. Mr. Craig was a partner in the New York advertising firm of Norman, Craig & Kummel Inc. He died in 1972. Mrs. Craig continued to live in the house until her death in 1990, at which time her daughter returned to live in the house. The younger Ms. Craig modified the kitchens and two of the bathrooms in 1990 and replaced the pool cage with an all metal facsimile of the original design in 1991.
The architect, Edward J. ("Tim") Seibert earned his architecture degree from the University of Florida in 1953, just two years before he began work on the original Craig Residence. Seibert had once worked briefly as a draftsman for Paul Rudolph and for Philip Hiss and as a carpenter for Jack Twitchell, the builder who would later complete the Craig Residence. In 1955, Seibert received his architectural registration and opened his own office in Sarasota. This house is, therefore, one of his very first official commissions. Seibert is now best known, perhaps, for the house he designed for writer John D. McDonald on Siesta Key (1965) or for the Bay Plaza condominiums (1983-1984).
The Craig Residence is a notably clear and clean example of the celebrated Sarasota School of Architecture. It was built in 1955 and designed by architect Edward J. Seibert, who also created the living room addition in 1959. The structure sits on a corner site in the Lido Shores neighborhood, directly on grade, with its flat roof almost floating independently over the shaded walls, a classic characteristic of the Sarasota School. The modesty of its Centre Place elevation is created in part by a high, continuous band of windows located just under the roof slab. These high windows create privacy from the road but also serve to visually separate the roof from the walls. The L-shaped plan of the house places focus on the pool in back, with its surrounding patio. This is here where the house truly opens up. The poolside elevations are virtually all glass, creating an easy indoor-outdoor spatial relationship which is so strongly associated with the Sarasota School and contemporary California architecture.
The L-shaped plan, though not uniquely attributable to the Sarasota School, is characteristic of much of the best architecture of the period. This plan type, with functional segregation of public and private to each leg of the "L," can be traced back to the early Usonian work of Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1930s. Mr. Wright's work was highly influential on the architecture of Paul Rudolph, the best-known practitioner of what is now termed the Sarasota School of Architecture. Since the house was built without air-conditioning, the one-room deep configuration of the L-plan permitted successful cross-ventilation.
The design of the house includes many characteristics classic to the Sarasota School: flat roofs with generous overhangs, continuous horizontal bands of fenestration, jalousie windows, terrazzo flooring, an open carport, large custom sliding glass panels from ceiling to floor, and the careful visual articulation of structural elements. The slender columns supporting the roof slab are not hidden in the wall, but instead step forward from it to be "expressed" on the elevation. The exterior walls are sheathed with tongue-in-groove vertical cypress boards and appear more like screen panels which span from column to column. Each of the enormous sliding glass panels in the bedrooms constitutes an entire wall of each room. They are custom built of a uniquely wide, single sheet of glazing set inside a wooden frame. When the sliding glass panels are opened fully, the poolside wall in each bedroom completely disappears - a remarkable effect which is simple in concept but complex in architectural execution, especially before the days of prefabricated pocketing glass doors.
The pool cage was designed as part of the 1959 addition and may be one of the earliest examples of a cage design created as part of the original architectural concept rather than as an afterthought add-on. Though the original wood frame of the cage has been rebuilt with an up-to-date metal channel system, the original design has been followed carefully.
The Craig Residence acknowledges features of several specific Sarasota School houses. As a very horizontal, slab-on-grade structure, it can be likened to the work of Twitchell and Rudolph in the late 1940s, specifically the Miller Residence (1947) on Casey Key. Later work by Rudolph was often raised off of the grade, creating a very different type of house, though often still quite horizontal.
Architect and writer John Howey cites the unbuilt but well-published Finney Residence (1947) by Twitchell and Rudolph for establishing several features which would become standard in the work of the Sarasota School-features which certainly influenced the design of the Craig Residence and its addition. Most significantly, the Finney Residence offered "non-load bearing privacy walls with high horizontal clear glass bands between wall and roof [which] further separated the body of the house from its roof and created the feeling of horizontal planes floating in space." Drawings for the Finney Residence also showed vertical wood siding like that of the Craig Residence instead of the more common exterior walls of stacked-bond "Ocala" block usually seen on early houses associated with the Sarasota School. Vertical cypress siding was also used in Paul Rudolph's Umbrella House in 1953, a little more than a block away. The use of vertical siding as the continuous skin of a modern house goes back, at least, to the residential work of Rudolph's professors at Harvard, former Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Their design for the Chamberlain House (1939) in Sudbury, Massachusetts, may have been quite influential on Rudolph and, in turn, on Seibert.
In May 1998. Edward J. "Tim" Seibert was elected to the College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects, for being "nationally recognized as a leader in the Sarasota School of Architecture and for his commitment to architecture as an art in consistently provocative and elegant design solutions." Seibert Architects PA is currently celebrating its 47th anniversary as the longest, continuously operating architectural practice in Sarasota County. Retired in 1995, Tim Seibert founded the firm in 1955.
In 1999 Seibert was awarded the AIA "Test of Time" Award for the John D. MacDonald house on Siesta Key. He had previously received the AIA's highest Florida Award, the "Florida Award of Honor for Design", and also the "Distinguished Alumni Award" from the School of Architecture of the University of Florida in 1994.
Seibert began his career as draftsman in the Sarasota office of Paul Rudolph a premier conceptualist of the Sarasota School of Architecture which won this community international recognition in the 1950s and '60s. The leadership of his firm has passed to Samuel C. Holladay, AIA, a 28-year veteran with Seibert, who now heads its long-established team of professionals as principal and owner. However, Seibert maintains a close relationship with the firm's "third generation" of architects practicing in the Sarasota School tradition. "My interest in the continued appreciation of a design tradition so well suited to Florida's environment continues. It is a great satisfaction for me to know that our Sarasota School tradition is alive and well, currently enjoying a significant resurgence of recognition here and across the country," says Seibert.
Seibert Architects' landmark projects include the Bay Plaza condominium which, when completed in 1986, mightily reinforced Downtown Sarasota's sense of place as a desirable residential area. The firm's impressive and luxurious design for the Resort at the Longboat Key Club has helped gain it prominence as one of the top 20 luxury resorts in the country and the only Four Diamond Resort in Southwest Florida. Distinctive Seibert-designed resorts and homes enhance the waterfront allure of Sarasota, Boca Grande, Longboat and Casey Keys.
The Craig Residence was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 2000.