Judging from the entries we received in our first annual Commercial Designs of Distinction competition, there's good news and more good news about the vitality of the commercial design industry in this region. Architects are creating sophisticated, smart and functional buildings that respond to the growing community. They're using interesting materials. And they're incorporating more environmentally sensitive conservation elements into their designs.

But take a look for yourself at these winning submissions from Sarasota and Manatee architects and designers.

ADF Dermatology

Project Architect: The ADP Group; design team, Javier Suarez, principle, and Hugo Mijares, project manager

Contractor: Tandem Construction

Modernism is alive and very well among the new medical office buildings cropping up along Tamiami Trail near Sarasota Memorial Hospital. For ADF Dermatology at the busy corner of U.S. 41 and Hibiscus Street, the ADP Group followed the lead of its physician-client, who requested a clean, "antiseptic" look. The sharp-lined three-story building ADP created has a neutral color palette of white paint and light oak and cream stone. On the corner, a crisp blue-toned curtain wall brings soft, colored light into the lobby and reception area. The result is just what the doctor ordered: an environment that soothes the eye and calms the spirits.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital, "1700 South" Café

Project Architect and Interior Designer: TRO/The Ritchie Organization; Jon Stone, AIA, and Paul Cooper, IIDA

Contractor: Keyco, Inc.

When Sarasota Memorial Hospital administrators decided to create and operate a 24-hour café on the ground floor of the hospital, they turned to The Ritchie Organization to create an attractive, welcoming environment that didn't automatically scream "healthcare." The designers rehabbed a 2,345-square-foot renovated space with an adjacent outdoor deck area, and created what they describe as "an oasis" in tones of soft blue, gray and green. Honey-blond furnishings were installed inside; sleek metal table and chairs on the deck. Hospital honchos and visitors alike have determined the operation was a success.

Orion Bank

Project Architect; Lawson Group Architects

Contractor: McIntyre, Elwell, Strammer

Connecting Sarasota's architectural heritage to the future was the aim of the Lawson Group Architects in designing the Main Street headquarters of Orion Bank, the largest privately held independent community bank in Southwest Florida. With less than 10,000 square feet of land area to work with, the architects went up, designing a two-story facility with banking services on the bottom floor and corporate offices on the second. The extensive use of Florida stone, mahogany wood and other richly detailed finishes signal to customers and passers-by the bank's traditional business philosophy.

The Ritz Carlton Beach Club

Project Architect: Diedrich/NBA, Atlanta

Contractor: Kellogg & Kimsey, Inc.

For the members-only Ritz Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key, the design team dreamed up an ultra-luxurious oversized sandcastle that befits the hotel company's ultra-elegant reputation, then furnished it with distressed wood floors and ceilings, paver walkways, brightly decorated indoor and outdoor dining areas, and shell walls that frame the walk-in pool. To conserve space, the complex was cleverly constructed over a ground-level parking garage. Think Fantasy Island deluxe.

Sarasota County Government Twin Lakes Park Office Complex

Project Architect: Michael Carlson, AIA, NCARB LEED AP, principal, Cardinal Carlson + Partners Inc.

Contractor: LAM Management Inc.

Sarasota County government's Twin Lakes Park office complex, the county's first public green building, gets kudos for its extensive energy-saving features. Among them are a solar energy system and a 28,000-gallon rooftop cistern that collects rainwater and recycles it for irrigation and toilet flushing (for an estimated 40-percent electric energy and 60-percent water savings since the building opened in August 2003). Recycled materials went into countertops, tile, carpet, toilet partitions, drywall, steel wall studs and aluminum window frames. A second existing building, remodeled to green standards, was set to open in September. As for its look, "There's no artificial style applied to it or forced on it," says Carlson. "It was important that the design be honest, that it be only what it needed to be." The project won the prestigious 2003 Sustainable Florida Architecture Merit Award. 

The Center for Premier Dentistry

Project Architect: DSDG, Inc.; Mark Sultana, Associate AIA

Contractor: D. L. Porter Constructors Inc.

More clean-lined, white-bright modern architecture polishes the Center for Premier Dentistry-a practice committed to modern dentistry-located on Swift Road, just south of Bee Ridge Road. Instead of opting for Spanish/Mediterranean architecture, says architect Mark Sultana, modernism allowed "the clarity of form, space and order to be revealed." The limited size of the site dictated that parking go under an elevated building. The second level houses a lobby, patient rooms and laboratory. On the third floor are doctor's offices, kitchen, staff lockers, workout room and observation deck. The west elevation is protected by attractive aluminum shades that provide shelter from the late afternoon sun.

Davidson Insulation & Acoustics, Inc.

Project Architect and Interior Designer: George Palermo; and Lorie Irons, Allied ASID, Home Showcase Interiors

Contractor: Taylor Contractors of Florida, Inc.

After 24 years at the same Charlotte County location, family-owned David Insulation & Acoustics moved last summer to expanded corporate headquarters in the North Port Park of Commerce. The warehouse's lively exterior, with its metal eyebrow accents and red tile columns, answered owner Ed Blanchard's desire for "something different that the typical metal building with stucco thrown on it," he says. Architect George Palermo and interior designer Lorie Irons cleverly carved 6,000 square feet of office space out of the original 42,000-square-foot warehouse for use by 35 of the company's 100-plus employees. Inside the executive offices, warm maple and cherry built-ins and marble floors set an elegant, yet comfortable tone. "It's functional yet attractive," says Blanchard, "something that will last us for the next 30 years."

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

Project Architect: Fawley Bryant Architects, Inc.; Rick Fawley AIA and Steve Padgett

Contractor: NDC Construction Company

Sarasota-Manatee's first medical school, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, has been designed by Fawley Bryant Architects as a high-tech facility with a human touch. The latest smart technology features are tempered by a huge skylight that stretches from the entrance back to the library, filling the center of the building with natural light. Included in the 109,000-square-foot campus are administration, lecture halls, labs, classrooms, cafeteria and library. To help busy students decompress, the student lounge and dining area look toward a small lake and nature preserve. Now that's a building with good bones.

United Bank

Project Architect and Interior Designer: Design Team West, Chris Dunn; Tidmore-Henry & Associates, William Tidmore, ASID, and Robert Henry, ASID

Contractor: Mike Carter Construction

Strength and solidity were the aims in designing the new United Bank building on busy Manatee Avenue in Bradenton. Outside, stone columns, handmade tiles, bronze trim (including a custom-made bronze flagpole) and colors that stepped right out of Provence communicate quality. Inside, the interior designers designed a solid cherry teller line with granite tops and hand-forged iron gates reminiscent of established banks from the turn of last century.

Marina Tower

Project Architect: Hoyt Architects; design team, Gary Hoyt, Tony Wildrick and Tim Snyder

Contractor: Kraft Construction

Urban planners around the country and here are banking on mixed-use projects to revitalize downtowns as places where people live, work and shop. One of the first local projects to show that retail can be assimilated beautifully into a luxury condominium is Marina Tower and its line of shops recessed at street level under the sunny yellow stripe. Architect Gary Hoyt located the condo's lobby and pool on the second floor, giving them bay views and privacy from Tamiami Trail. The building's gentle curving line, clean silhouette and whimsical circular window reflects perfectly the curve of the bayfront and the feeling of seaside living.

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