FLORIDA BUILDINGS I LOVE: No. 31: Dolphin House, 1997, Sarasota

09 Jul 2017 11:10 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

By Harold Bubil
Real estate editor

Posted Jul 8, 2017 at 3:25 AM

3251 Higel Ave., Siesta Key. Carl Abbott, FAIA

Carl Abbott is one of Sarasota’s design legends. By his own admission, he does not design a lot of buildings. But the ones he does, he makes count.

Winning “Test of Time” awards from the American Institute of Architects is pretty much an annual occurrence for Abbott. By paying special attention to a project’s site, he has created buildings that are still functional and vital after 25 years, which may not sound like a long time, but in Florida, where 10 years is middle-age for a new waterfront house, it is.

There are still five years to go before this week’s “Building I Love” is eligible, but considering how it makes the most of a small site with a big view of Sarasota Bay and downtown, the Dolphin House could, indeed, win yet another “Test of Time” award someday.

The house derives its name from the dolphins who tend to feed and linger just a few feet from its seawall where Bayou Louise connects to Sarasota Bay on the north end of Siesta Key. ”“They are there all the time,” he said.

Abbott used his signature design tools — off-white coloring, industrial fenestration and handrails, huge panels of glass — to accentuate views and make memorable architecture. He also took the flat roof and skewed it out of level. The purpose was to direct the eye toward the bayou on the east side, and allow more sunset colors to enter the house from the west.

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“There are a lot of elements of this building that really tie into my words ‘informed by the land,’ ” said Abbott, referring to the title of a book about his work. “This house would not work anywhere else.”

In “In/Formed by the Land,” Abbott writes, “The main view is to the north, across the wide bay to the city. I designed the great floating roof to also accentuate other specific views. The roof is a flat plane with each corner at a different height. To the west is the highest corner, aiming to the sky. To the east, a lower corner aiming down to the water of the narrow canal.”

The central interior element is a grand living room that includes the dining area, with dramatic views through a double-height glass curtain wall.

“In that big room,” said Abbott in a 2012 interview with the Herald-Tribune, “the walls are not parallel — the wall is to the west and the wall to the east. That is basically a reverse perspective to bring the city closer. It accentuates the perspective.”

“Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s homage to the Sunshine State’s built environment. He has prepared a PowerPoint slide show for presentation to clubs and civic groups. Contact him at hfbubil@me.com.


AIA Florida Gulf Coast Chapter | P.O. Box 160 | Sarasota | FL | 34230 | info@aiagulfcoast.org | 941.315.8242

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