The New Architects

By Hannah Wallace September 30, 2005

A fresh crop of young architects is putting roots down in the region, and their work will shape our look in years to come. We talked to four of these newcomers, who told us issues of density, affordability and sustainability are as vital as aesthetics. Here are their designs for a better Sarasota and Manatee-and take note: They don't include more Mediterranean Revival.

Eva Schone

Eva Schone grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the former East Germany and came to the United States six years ago to study at the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design. Sarasota has a rich architectural tradition, she says, but needs affordable housing, sustainable development and environmental awareness. She singles out Sarasota's Whole Foods and Carrabba's rooftop gardens as examples of this new architectural thinking.

Age: 31 Employer: Carl Abbott Favorite commercial building: The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's new offices. Least favorite trend: "Commercial buildings that look like homes." Wish list: "I hope we're going to look like a 21st-century area and not like a duplication of a romanticized past." Design hero: British architect Richard Rogers (Centre Pompidou in Paris, Lloyd's of London building in London). Current projects: Luxury homes on Siesta and Manasota keys; housing for the Coalition to Assist Supported Living; assisting in the addition to St. Thomas More church. Dream project: "To design a housing complex where all levels of income come together."

Arif Abdulla

As an architecture student, Arif Abdulla shared berries and ice cream in 1990 with the widow of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, whose pioneering modernist designs are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "It was life-changing," says the native Canadian.

His travels showed him the contrast between old European cities, which were built "with the best interests of the town in mind," and today's Florida development, which is driven instead by individual profits. "We're caught in the wave of speculative frenzy," he says, which leaves too many unable to afford or enjoy the city.

Age: 37 Employer: ToTeMS Favorite commercial building: Sarasota's historic courthouse on Main Street. Least favorite commercial trend: "The application of Mediterranean style and gingerbreading on all buildings." Pet peeve: Not getting accurate costs throughout the building process. Design hero: Frank Lloyd Wright. "I like his classical principles of proportion and scale, and the siting of his buildings." Most exciting new building material: Dual-glazed glass walls that reduce energy consumption Vision for Sarasota and Manatee: "Plurality! That we not adhere to one style, that we have public involvement and we incorporate green design." Current project: A fire station for the East Manatee Fire and Rescue District.

Cathy Maurer

Cathy Maurer and her husband moved to Sarasota from Los Angeles last spring to avoid the traffic and to have a life beyond her husband's job with world-famous Frank Gehry, designer of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. "My husband was working 125 hours weekly-about 18 hours a day."

Maurer, who earned her bachelor's degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her master's degree in architecture from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, was lured to the region by its legacy of Sarasota School of Architecture buildings. The community is not as receptive to experimental work as she'd hoped, but Maurer sees potential for more exciting buildings and sustainable design.

Age: 30 Employer: Bowen Architecture Pet peeve: Mediterranean Revival. "It's an obsession with nostalgic architecture that doesn't work. The craftsmanship that made it possible doesn't exist anymore." Biggest misconception: "That architects make a lot of money." (Like most associate architects, Maurer earns less than $50,000 a year.) Most meaningful project: A tree house and boardwalk at the Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. for children who were ventilator-dependent. Vision for Sarasota and Manatee: "That development would slow down. It's going to be a real problem in the future." Current projects: Dental office complex, interior renovation for SKY Sotheby's International Realty. Dream project: Designing aesthetic, affordable homes.

Javi Suarez Jr.

"Architecturally and artistically we say Sarasota's a cultural mecca, but that's not necessarily the case," says Javi Suarez Jr., whose father co-founded The ADP Group in Sarasota. "My fear is that we'll turn into another Naples, a lot of Mediterranean Revival."

Suarez attended the University of Florida, received a full scholarship to graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, and then stayed in L.A. working with other young architects on high-end contemporary residential work.

Today, in addition to working alongside his father, Suarez helps organize forums such as No Brakes, where local architects create inventive solutions to common design problems.

Age: 32 Employer: The ADP Group Favorite commercial building: Center for Digestive Diseases on South Tamiami Trail. Pet peeve: "Monotony. In my neighborhood I have to click the garage door opener to figure out which home I live in." Vision for Sarasota: "That Sarasota architecture have a charm of its own, a more contemporary style, something that talks about the here and now, and uses the climate in design." Current commercial projects: Michael Saunders & Company's mixed-use Orange Avenue project in downtown Sarasota; Temple Sinai in Sarasota; and Westshore One, a 168-unit condominium in Tampa. Secret wish: "That local architects worked a bit better as a team. There's so much work in this town without tearing each other down." Inspiration: "Music, fine arts and my father."

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