Essential Intelligence About Sarasota School of Architecture

With so many new residents flocking to Sarasota, there’s something they need to know outside of its gorgeous beaches and thriving arts scene.

Sarasota is the starting point of a mid-century modern architectural movement called the Sarasota School of Architecture. If you missed Sarasota’s annual MOD weekend, which celebrates the movement with house calls, symposia and more, save the date for next year’s 10th anniversary event.

In the meantime, here are some Sarasota school basics, plus photos from this year’s event, to help you look like a longtime aficionado.


The Sarasota school movement after World War II only lasted from 1941 to 1966, but left an indelible mark. His best known names are Philip Hiss, Ralph Twitchell, Paul Rudolph, Victor Lundy, Jack West and Gene Leedy. Most of the Sarasota School’s original homes are in the Lido Shores neighborhood, but other examples of the school can also be found on Siesta Key and throughout the city. Some even go beyond the residential setting, such as Sarasota High School and the South Gate Community Center.

Some of the most iconic houses include the Zigzag House, Umbrella House and Hiss Studio. The Revere Quality House and Cocoon House on Siesta Key are other great examples of the style.

The designs incorporated new materials for the time, such as terrazzo, concrete, and even copper. They also used local materials, such as cypress and cedar wood. Distinctive architectural features include wide roof overhangs, simple lines, louvered walls and shutters, and open floor plans. The idea was to respond to the local climate, with innovative ways to capture and deflect natural light, shade and ventilation.

The effects create beautiful, simple spaces that are easy to love. Here’s a look at some of the Sarasota School of Architecture homes featured during this year’s MOD Weekend home tours at Lido Shores.

walls down

A home from the Sarasota School of Architecture during the MOD Weekend Home Tour.

Responding and living in harmony with the geography lent itself to open plan structures to aid ventilation – remember, this was before air conditioning rocked our world.

Glass galore

Sarasota School of Architecture, MOD Weekend home visit to Lido Shores.

Large windows facilitate natural light and ventilation. Jalousie windows with opening slats and sliding glass doors were essential.


Sarasota School of Architecture trade show during MOD Weekend Home Tours at Lido Shores.

Many Sarasota school houses had built-in storage and shelving, obviating the need for cabinets and freestanding furniture that can clutter a space.

A place in the shade

Umbrella House during the Sarasota School of Architecture MOD weekend home visit to Lido Shores.

Cantilevered overhangs kept homes cooler by intercepting sunlight and providing shade. That of the Umbrella House, above, is the most emblematic.

Clerestory windows

Home to the Sarasota School of Architecture during the MOD Weekend Home Tour at Lido Shores.

These narrow rectangular windows are placed above eye level to illuminate interiors with natural light, usually in a row just below the roofline. They also provide privacy without sacrificing natural light. By freeing up wall space, clerestory windows allow for more built-in storage (see above), wall art, and other interior design elements.

The blurring of inside and outside

Home of the Sarasota School of Architecture during MOD Weekend at Lido Shores.

Glass walls and outdoor seating make the interior and exterior melt into each other.

Details are missing

Sarasota School of Architecture Dining Hall during MOD Weekend at Lido Shores.

Sarasota School houses avoid vaulted ceilings, archways, or unnecessary ornamentation. Sometimes there is a zigzag, but otherwise the architectural lines stay horizontal and vertical, for a simple, clean look.

Although revered by historians, architects, critics, and fans today, between 1960 and 1990 most mid-century modern structures in Sarasota fell into disrepair and were demolished. In fact, the majority of Sarasota School of Architecture homes in Lido Shores are on inland roads; many on the water have been demolished over the years to make way for larger homes, especially since most of the original homes were just over 2,000 square feet.

Follow Architecture Sarasota for more opportunities to get up close to these iconic structures with home tours and more.

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