Tour the Sarasota School this Fall

It’s not too soon to start thinking about a visit to Florida this fall.

Especially to Sarasota, where from Nov. 8 – 10, dozens of midcentury modern homes will be on tour.

Three of them – the critically acclaimed Umbrella House, the Revere Quality House and the Cocoon House – are by Paul Rudolph.

Rudolph got his start in Sarasota in the 1940s with architect Ralph Twitchell, a classically trained designer responsible for John Ringling’s Venetian mansion, Ca’ d’Zan. When he shifted gears toward modernism, Rudolph was a natural fit.

The two would design about 24 residences in the Tropical Modernist style – one that investigated and adapted to the climate, terrain and materials of Florida. Rudolph’s career there would be interrupted in 1941 when he left to attend Harvard’s Graduate School of Design with Walter Gropius. When war broke out, he joined the Navy and worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

There he learned about wartime materials like plywood, plastic and spray foam. When he returned to Sarasota and Twitchell in 1948, he’d put them all to use in the homes they designed.

Eventually, he’d leave Twitchell and set up his own shop with a young set of architects. They’d become known as the Sarasota School – and when Rudolph left to become chair of the Yale School of Architecture in 1958, they spread across Florida, carrying the gospel of modernism with them.

Now the Sarasota Architectural Foundation seeks to advocate, educate and celebrate their work with SarasotaMOD, a three-day weekend of tours, lectures and panel discussions.

“It’s somewhat modeled after the Palm Springs Modern Week,” says board member Carrie Cox. “We realized that we have the gift of these gems of midcentury modern architecture.”

This year marks their sixth event. Last year architecture critic Paul Goldberger spoke, and this year John McCarthy, executive director of the Gulf Coast Heritage Association and Historic Spanish Point, will discuss “Sarasota in the Sixties” on Saturday.

A panel discussion on Saturday will feature one of the original members of the movement, Frank Folsom Smith, along with architect Carl Abbott, who studied under Rudolph at Yale. “They’ll discuss the importance of restoring and adapting these houses,” she says.

Tickets for self-guided tours vary in cost, depending on the itinerary. Trolley tours are $75.

For more information, go here.

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