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Architecture Sarasota's MOD Weekend celebrates its 10th birthday

Victor Lundy designed the Blue Pagoda, located at 655 N. Tamiami Trail.
Victor Lundy designed the Blue Pagoda, located at 655 N. Tamiami Trail.
Image courtesy of Greg Wilson
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Who is Victor Lundy? How did he leave his mark on Sarasota? To find out the answers to these questions and to have a little fun in the process, don't miss the 10th Sarasota MOD Weekend sponsored by Architecture Sarasota. 

MOD weekend, from Nov. 2-5, will appeal to architecture aficionados, professional partygoers, outdoor enthusiasts and yoga practitioners, depending on which events you choose to attend. Full freight for all the festivities is $400 for a weekend pass, but you can sample various events with a la carte pricing.

Some events are self-guided driving tours so it helps to have access to wheels of one kind or another. There's even a kayak tour of North Siesta Key on Nov. 3. It doesn't require a kayak (they are provided), but you do need to know your way around a paddle.

Many residents of Sarasota and its environs are lifelong learners at heart. If you're one of them, you'll want to do your homework on architect Victor Lundy, who is in the spotlight at the 10th MOD Weekend. 

Lundy was a leading member of the Sarasota School of Architecture, a school whose existence he famously denied in a 1999 magazine interview. 

The school, which includes such luminaries as Ralph Twitchell, Paul Rudolph, Carl Abbott and Ralph and William Zimmerman, was part of a movement to build innovative homes, schools and churches in the post-World War II era. It was happening in places like Sarasota, Palm Springs, California; New Canaan, Connecticut; and Columbus, Indiana, to name just a few. 

Born in 1923 to Russian immigrants in New York City, Lundy served in World War II. After the war, he earned bachelor's and masters degrees in architecture at Harvard, where he was influenced by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Lundy arrived in Sarasota in 1951, opened an architecture firm in1954 and worked here until 1960.

Lundy is probably best known for designing the Blue Pagoda, a 1956 building that was originally the home of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

It still stands at 655 N. Tamiami Trail and is owned by the city. If you've driven by, you can be forgiven for assuming it was a tiki bar or some kind of Polynesian restaurant. It throws off a South Seas vibe.

The sloping roofs championed by Lundy are also found in local churches, most notably St. Paul Lutheran Church at 2256 Bahia Vista St. Lundy designed the building in 1958 for a modest fee of $500, as well two other buildings that make up the church's campus.

Victor Lundy, who designed St. Paul Lutheran Church, is the focus of Architecture Sarasota's 10th MOD Weekend.
Courtesy image

Any description of St. Paul inevitably includes the word "glulams," which the layman is unlikely to encounter in ordinary conversation. According to the website of the Engineered Wood Association, "Glulam is a stress-rated engineered wood beam composed of wood laminations, or 'lams,' that are bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives."

To learn more about the role of glulams in the design of St. Paul, you'll want to attend the MOD Weekend symposium on Victor Lundy and Sculptural Modernism on Nov. 4 at the church followed by a tour of the restored education building. 

Lundy, who is now 100 years old, was honored by the predecessor to Architecture Sarasota in 2016 with a Lifetime Art and Architecture achievement award. Then 94, he traveled to Sarasota to pick up his award.

Because of his advanced age, Lundy will not be attending this year's MOD Weekend, which is honoring him on the occasion of his centenary, said Morris “Marty” Hylton III, president of Architecture Sarasota. 

'A wakeup call'

A recent Thursday found Hylton juggling an interview while supervising the installation of an exhibit honoring Lundy in the lobby of Architecture Sarasota at 265 S. Orange Ave. 

The white paint the workman showed up with didn't perfectly match the shade already up on the walls. Hylton took it in stride and devised a workaround. No histrionics here. Originally from the coal mining region of Kentucky, Hylton's career path took him to Columbia University in New York City, where he earned a master's degree in historic preservation. 

In his efforts documenting, conserving and advocating for cultural heritage, Hylton spent time at the World Monuments Fund, the University of Florida, where he was director of the Historic Preservation Program, and the National Park Service. 

Architecture Sarasota President Morris "Marty" Hylton III stands in front of the Victor Lundy exhibit in the lobby of the McCulloch Pavilion.
Photo by Monica Gagnier

Along the way he became an expert in the Sarasota School of Architecture, due to his efforts to save Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School. Despite its appearance on the 2008 World Monuments Watch list, the building was demolished in 2009.

When he was named president of Architecture Sarasota in 2023, two years after its formation through the merger of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation and the Center for Architecture Sarasota, Hylton said, "The demolition of Riverview High School felt like a wake-up call, demonstrating the need for preservation initiatives and advocates." 

Getting the public involved

Architecture Sarasota is housed in what was originally the showroom for a furniture company. Named the Scott Building, it was designed by architects William Rupp and Joseph Farrell. It was later purchased by the city and used as a print shop.

After the Scott Building fell into disrepair, it was renovated by Guy Peterson in consultation with Joseph Farrell. It was rechristened the McCulloch Pavilion and opened in 2015, thanks to the efforts of the Center for Architecture Sarasota and the University of Florida. 

The Lundy exhibition "Infinite Span, Architecture Beyond Sarasota," opens Nov. 2 and will be on display at the McCullough Pavilion through March 1, 2024. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. So if you don't get your Lundy fix over MOD Weekend, check out the exhibit and learn more about his designs outside of Sarasota. 

As long as you're doing your homework for MOD Weekend, stop by the Sarasota School of Architecture exhibit in the City Hall lobby at 1565 First St. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be up until June 2024. The installation includes models, renderings, reproductions, original blueprints and archival photographs provided by Architecture Sarasota and Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources.

Any discussion of Sarasota's MOD Weekend inevitably leads to comparisons with Palm Springs, which has been holding Modernism Week since February 2006. As appreciation for mid-century modern-inspired architecture and home furnishings has grown, Modernism Week has taken off, attracting 120,000 attendees with more than 350 events. 

By contrast, MOD Weekend is expected to attract 500 attendees, including a contingent from Palm Springs, says Hylton, who was part of the initial efforts to get Sarasota's modernism event off the ground more than a decade ago.

There's no better person in Sarasota to go down the rabbit hole of mid-century modernism with than Hylton. For him, it's not just about a time period; it's an aesthetic. To define what modernism means in Sarasota, Hylton and Architecture Sarasota are inviting the public to nominate "Moderns That Matter" from now until Jan. 31, 2021. 

Anybody who cares about Sarasota can nominate modern places built in the last 100 years, including districts, parks and public spaces, public art, signs and other design features. You can nominate your choice by visiting and filling out an online form or by emailing the address or location of the building or place, its name and why it matters to [email protected]. Your name, email and phone number should be included in your entry.

After all this cramming for MOD Weekend, it's time to kick back and enjoy yourself. You'll have plenty of chances, between an opening night party on Nov. 3, at the Sarasota Garden Club at the Bay, and cocktails and dinner Nov. 4 at the White Sands Beach Cabanas. 

Learn about the "atomic ranches" of the Southgate neighborhood with a self-guided driving tour Nov. 4. "What's an atomic ranch?" Good question. Revolutionary at the time, these single-story homes have an open floor plan and an outdoor patio with a large yard, among other features.

Architecture Sarasota's 10th MOD Weekend will feature a yoga class at the iconic Umbrella house designed by Paul Rudolph on Sunday, Nov. 5. 
File image

The Southgate atomic ranch exploration is one of several self-guided driving tours during MOD Weekend. If you're looking for a more active experience, try the self-guided kayaking tour or take your yoga practice to the iconic Umbrella House, designed by Paul Rudolph, on the morning of Nov. 5. It's your weekend, after all.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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