The Sarasota Residence was an opportunity to create a home for the clients to enjoy the beauty of Sarasota Bay while honoring its historic roots. The clients were drawn to Sarasota for its renowned modern architecture and wanted to build a home that was in keeping with the high level of design of the city. Through the use of locally sourced lumber, masonry and plant material, the focus of the Landscape Architect was on sustainability while complementing the new home’s modern aesthetic.
The house was clad in restored sunken river cypress that was sourced in Florida. Sunken river cypress logs lay on river bottoms for hundreds of years and are perfectly preserved in the cool waters of Florida’s swamps. These logs are extremely durable and once recovered, yield a beautiful patina. Avoiding the use of tropical hardwoods and repurposing local material was a deliberate and conscious decision. The Landscape Architect took cues from the cypress wood and geometry of the house and incorporated it into the landscape design.
The site had a series of pre-existing challenges - long and linear in shape with looming adjacent buildings on either side. Consequently, privacy was a significant concern for the clients. The Landscape Architect partitioned the property into a series of outdoor rooms that are experienced sequentially from street to bay. Mature plant material was installed to effectively screen out neighboring residences and create lush outdoor rooms.
At the property entrance, the clients requested an enclosure that not only provided privacy but also was visually stimulating for the neighborhood. The Landscape Architect took inspiration from modern architect Luis Barragan's well-known slatted fence detail. The reimagined version consisted of a series of repeating stucco walls broken up with panels of sinker cypress pickets. The result was simple, clean, and elegant. This concept was echoed yet modified at the front entry garden. Here the stucco sections were omitted, and the fence height was reduced to 4’ tall, more in keeping with the human scale. Within the courtyard, a fountain was incorporated to welcome visitors with a calming ambience.
Light and shade became a driving influence in the design process. The driveway was lined with live oaks, creating a beautiful, shaded canopy. Live oak branches initially conceal the home from visitors arriving through the entry gates, delaying the reveal of the residence. Once past the allée, the light, sky, and bay in the distance pull visitors into the property.
Due to FEMA regulations, the house was elevated 17 feet above ground level. The design team saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of, utilizing this ‘under story’ to create a series of gathering spaces below the canopy of the house. These seating areas became the perfect place to take refuge from the Florida heat. To help soften these gathering spaces, the Landscape Architect utilized the U-shape courtyard created by the footprint of the house. With wart fern groundcover and Alexander palms, the cool, sheltered level was enhanced with greenery.
A centerpiece to the exterior living space was the vanishing edge swimming pool. The landscape architect incorporated a low 18” waterfall wall along the subtle grade change between the pool terrace and lower lawn. A darker pool finish was selected to complement the natural color of the bay. Other features included an integrated spa tucked under the second story overhang and a sun ledge overlooking Sarasota Bay.
All the masonry was a locally sourced coral stone, used historically in Florida because of the thermal properties of the stone to repel heat. The firepit was purposely placed out into the yard so the views of Sarasota Bay, barrier islands in the distance, as well as the illuminated house, could all be appreciated at night fall.
Throughout the project, constant collaboration between the Landscape Architect, Architect, and Builder resulted in a new residence that is seamlessly engrained in its landscape, in the heart of Sarasota.