More roof than wall was the signature of architect Victor Lundy's designs. One of his design remnants is Visionworks, just south of U.S. 41 and 301. As America's romance with the auto took consumers away from downtown, modern America developed along these asphalt corridors. The tradition of competing for the driver's attention became a significant part of the built environment and Lundy's buildings were often more of an attraction than the goods in the window.
Before embarking on what would become a dynamic architectural career, Lundy served in World War II with Patton's Third Army. He was one of 16 survivors out of a battalion of 360. His professional education commenced at Harvard's Graduate School of Design after the war. Studying under Modern masters Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, Lundy was considered the "wildman of the class." According to Lundy, "everything that was bottled up during the war came out with splashes of emotion and color." Lundy began his architectural career in Sarasota following the lead of Harvard classmate, Paul Rudolph. Lundy became a member of the "Sarasota School," a group of modernist architects influential in Sarasota during this time.
Lundy received national fame for his use and detail of the roof in his designs. The Warm Mineral Springs Motel is an example of multiple concrete roof canopies, of varying heights, providing an air of distinction. Lundy's roofs typically float over glass walls in a state of grace and suspension. A similar effect can be seen in the design of the blue tile roof of the former Sarasota Visitor's Center. A "poetic fluidity" of building elements is masterfully achieved through the glass walls and sweeping roof lines.
During the 1950's Time, Life and Architectural Record magazines would praise Lundy for his fierce independence and maverick ideas. He considered the design process as one of "controlled turmoil" seeking to make "perfect things." His Sarasota projects convey a sense of drama along the miles of "Highway Architecture." Galloway's took a front seat, situated close to the road. Laminated redwood beams sprang from the center core creating a flower-shaped furniture showroom. Dramatic effects and evocative beauty capture a curious eye as passers-by strain at the visual feast conveyed through Lundy's architecture.
Lundy characterizes his architecture as an attempt to "do great sculptured spaces with economy of means." Within this philosophy of art and budget the Visionworks building once served as Galloway's and later as a museum. In 1966, Ben Stahl's Museum of the Cross was housed in the circular two-story glass structure. The art exhibit was later moved to a more permanent setting
Among Lundy's notable projects are the Bee Ridge Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church and the "butterfly wing" at Alta Vista School. Venice area projects include an award-winning geodesic home designed for Sam H. Herron, who also employed Lundy to design the Warm Mineral Springs Motel. The Venice drive-in church made Lundy and the trend-setting Venice Presbyterian congregation famous when Life magazine showed up to do a photo shoot at Sunday services.
Many of his structures throughout Sarasota County retain their design integrity. After observing a few of his designs one can readily become a connoisseur of Lundy's work. Becoming most widely known for his church designs, when asked how he viewed his work, Lundy responded, "bold and naked." Gable roofs may never be the same, especially on churches.
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Unless some very modest community has beat us to it and then neglected to let the world know of its achievement, Sarasota is to have the first homemade people’s park. The idea of extending the present popular road-building day plan to secure the improvement of a tract of land for a park purposed by James E. Moore, has been seized upon with avidity and unanimity. In another column will be found Mayor Higel’s official contribution, in the shape of a proclamation setting aside Thursday, November 6, as Park Day, with the purpose in view of making this an annual event in Sarasota’s history.
The Modern Movement/International Style
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The modern movement began in Europe and gradually influenced American architects. European architects, including Mies van der Rhoe experimented with plasticity – exploiting new materials and the latest technological advances, especially the steel frame. Design emphasis was on utility and function, rather than ornament. With the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany and the onset of World War II, several modern architectural designers immigrated to the United States, bringing with them their structural and theoretical concepts.
The antiseptic tone of today’s obituaries is a far cry from the finely crafted, inspirational prose that documented the deaths of Sarasota’s early residents.