Mostly Modernism, Mostly Florida 

Editors Note: This site was formerly named Iconic or not .

 Welcome to Kyle; my focus is mostly modernist architecture and Florida. The state is famous for sandy beaches, colorful people, and Disney World. It’s the third most populous state in the nation and most of the population lives less than 25 feet above sea level. The geography attracts visionaries challenging us to reimagine the landscape. A hundred years ago, the new vision for architecture was Bauhaus, now labeled mid-century modernism, a type of architecture that’s made a comeback. In the 1950s, Sarasota was the epicenter for architects practicing and experimenting with new designs, materials, and philosophies. Welcome. I hope you’ll follow me. 

A Brief History of Florida Modernism

Photo by Kyle Pierson — Paul Rudolph’s 1950 Healy Guest House, aka, “Cocoon House.”

Suppose you’re the president of an unbuilt college in 1938 in the center of a vast undeveloped state. What do you do to draw attention to your campus?  Florida Southern, a new college opening in Lakeland at that time wanted to make a big entrance on the national scene. The president decided to do it by hiring the most flamboyant  modernist architect in the country to communicate that Lakeland embodied the future. He hired  Frank Lloyd Wright who created “Child of the Sun.” Wright’s vision shaped Florida’s landscape forever. His work drew a young Paul Rudolph to Lakeland to see the most exciting project in the country taking shape. Sarasota architect Ralph Twitchell hired Paul Rudolph to work in his firm.  Rudolph loved the simplicity inspired by Florida’s endless shoreline and the lovely breezes flowing through pre-A/C houses. He envisioned cool Gulf air drifting through tropical modern bungalows. He was the first to design sliding glass doors and jalousie windows. It wasn’t long before Rudolph and other talented designers built Sarasota’s reputation for being a place for innovative work.  I write about the Sarasota School, Bauhaus, and new landscape architecture here.


Modern meets climate change

Me in front of Zaha Hadid’s 1000 Museum, Miami. Photo by Dave Pierson

Florida is basically one long beach with some dunes in the middle; the highest elevation is in the panhandle. Despite what our governor says, we are experiencing the effects of global warming now. Miami is already elevating streets that are perpetually underwater; this phenomenon is known as “sunny day flooding.” Yet construction is booming on south Florida beaches. New buildings will have to withstand rising sea levels. Pictured above is the newest addition to the Miami skyline, Zaha Hadid’s 1000 Museum. It is in the yellow zone, meaning that the parking garage is likely to flood with a 3 ft. sea level rise.