SarasotaMOD Weekend Reinvents Itself for the Pandemic Age

The architecture festival returns Nov. 6-8 with some novel twists to honor the career of longtime Sarasota architect Carl Abbott.

By Ilene Denton August 17, 2020

Casa del Cielo, a private residence designed by architect Carl Abbott.

SarasotaMOD Weekend, a production of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, will return Nov. 6-8 to celebrate our area’s rich midcentury-modern architectural heritage and to honor the long, storied career of regional architect Carl Abbott—with some pandemic-era twists. 

This year’s festival is being recast from an indoor event to focus on exteriors. That makes sense, says SAF board chair Anne Essner, because that’s “the real sense of the Sarasota modernist school, which is the transition from inside to outside. It’s a refreshing point of view.”

No trolley tours of Sarasota School of Architecture homes or scholarly in-person panel discussions this year for obvious reasons. Instead, two self-driving tours, in north and south Sarasota County, will each focus on eight to 10 Abbott-designed homes and civic buildings that tourgoers will be able to view from the outside. There, they can download to their cellphones short videos about each of the buildings that the architect has taped.

The popular Lido Shores walking tour instead will be a Gulf and Garden tour, with new properties included this year that are noted for their landscaping and interesting water views of the Gulf and New Pass. (The Lido Key neighborhood is a treasure trove of Sarasota School of Architecture homes.) “The crowning jewel will be outside access to Carl’s Putterman Residence,” she says. Like many of Abbott’s designs, this one has a strong closed front façade, then opens up to the water side.

And for the more adventurous, a kayak tour around Siesta Key will take paddlers by homes designed by Abbott and other contemporary architects as well as Paul Rudolph’s Cocoon House. “It will be open air with a small group of people; I think it’s going to be a blast,” says Essner.

Essner says “it certainly was time” to honor Abbott, who earned his master’s in architecture at Yale under Paul Rudolph (a Sarasota School of Architecture pioneer), and who is considered the last in a line of architects who hail all the way back to the heyday of the midcentury-modern Sarasota School of Architecture. Abbott has been designing homes and public buildings that speak to our region’s natural beauty for more than 50 years.  

In addition to the tours, exhibits of Carl’s work will be on display at the Sarasota Art Museum and Art Center Sarasota, and a virtual “Conversation with Carl” keynote address will take place Saturday morning.

Tickets and complete event details can be found in mid-September here

“It’s MOD reinvented,” says Essner. “Some of the things we’re doing would have been great even if we didn’t even have Covid.

“We want people to feel comfortable coming. We have interesting ideas that will draw them in and allow them to participate safely, and that’s important. And masks only!”

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