True West

By staff January 1, 2002

Sarasota architect Jack West is a bit of a bear-a gracious, handsome bear-but a bear, nonetheless. He growls his way through conversations on architecture, politics and human nature, impatient that there aren't enough intelligent people out there to understand his ideas.

Yet, when you see his designs (check out his book "TLOAA"-"The Lives of an Architect"-which includes his drawings and photographs), everything becomes crystal clear. West's structures, dating back to the '50s when he and other local architects became known as part of the "Sarasota School," are both livable spaces and icons of sleek, elegant beauty. He designed Sarasota City Hall, Republic Bank, the Lemon Avenue Mall (the original, done in 1974), the former home of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and extraordinary homes all over Sarasota.

At 79, West still designs in his Sarasota studio, a converted orchid greenhouse. "I always wanted to be an architect, but making money and doing the usual things was not enough. I wanted to produce the best kind of architecture I could without compromising, and I've been trying every since."

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