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Publication date 23 June, 2022

Welcome Umbrella House!

  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Front exterior on Westway Drive in the Lido Shores neighborhood.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. The original wood "umbrella" shading Paul Rudolph's Sarasota Umbrella House, completed in 1953, was lost in a storm seven years later. In 2015 it was restored to completely cover the pool area.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Living Room.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Living room, Dining area and sunken seating area
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Kitchen.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Kitchen.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Interior.
  • Umbrella House Paul Rudolph photo Modern on Maui - Liam Ball. Roof detail.
  • Umbrella House Paul Rudolph photo Modern on Maui - Liam Ball. Jalousie windows.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Front exterior on Westway Drive in the Lido Shores neighborhood.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. The original wood "umbrella" shading Paul Rudolph's Sarasota Umbrella House, completed in 1953, was lost in a storm seven years later. In 2015 it was restored to completely cover the pool area.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Living Room.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto. Living room, Dining area and sunken seating area
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Anton Grassl Esto.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Kitchen.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Kitchen.
  • Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, photo Francis Dzikowski. Interior.
  • Umbrella House Paul Rudolph photo Modern on Maui - Liam Ball. Roof detail.
  • Umbrella House Paul Rudolph photo Modern on Maui - Liam Ball. Jalousie windows.

After Paul Rudolph's Modulightor building in New York, we are proud and happy to welcome a second Paul Rudolph masterpiece to our collection of modern house museums with the Umbrella House! With Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami, the Umbrella House is now also the iconic house in Florida. Here's some background to the stunning and innovative design of the house.

The Umbrella House (originally known as the Hiss Residence) is a mid-century modern home designed by architect, Paul Rudolph. Built as the show home for Sarasota's Lido Shores neighbourhood in 1953, the structure blends international style modernism with indigenous tropical design. It is among the preeminent works of the Sarasota School of Architecture and considered ‘one of the most remarkable homes of the twentieth century’ by Architectural Digest.

Architect Paul Rudolph was approached by entrepreneur Philip Hanson Hiss III in 1952 to design a prototype home that would serve as a model for his Lido Shores real estate development, located on a small sand-covered spit of land between St. Armands Key and Longboat Key. Hiss was an enthusiastic supporter of mid-century modern architecture. He hoped that a radical new design might ‘catapult his Lido Shores development into the international spotlight.’ Rudolph was launching his own independent architecture practice in Sarasota at the time and was willing to work on the project.

Rudolph was aware of Hiss’ interest in site-specific architecture (designed to integrate into its environment) and set to work on a configuration that was at once geometrically modern and in harmony with its locale. The result was a two-story, open-plan box concept, with operable jalousie windows on all sides to facilitate natural ventilation. Over this box was built a large simple frame with a latticed ‘parasol’ (flat umbrella roof) overlaying the house, the rear patio, and the pool. It served as a tropical pavilion, or pergola, creating patterns of shade over virtually the entire property. Rudolph designed this secondary roof to float slightly above the house roof to enable air movement and promote cooling.

The rectangular house was placed lengthwise on a north–south axis, while the pergola was overlaid lengthwise east–west. This positioning maximized interior light in living areas during the day. Despite its diminutive size (less than 1,500 square feet), the interior plan was a complex combination of transparent spaces and opaque walls, creating both privacy and spaciousness. The seventeen-foot-high vaulted ceiling, with floor-to-ceiling glass (front and back of the house), framed exterior views of both Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico from the second-floor bridge and bedroom balconies.

Umbrella House, Exterior (source: Library of Congress) 

Speculative success
Hiss located the speculative house on a curve on John Ringling Parkway, where it would be seen by both passers-by and the press. Within weeks of completion, several thousand people had visited the house, with more than twenty-five thousand touring it in the first year. The project was featured in House & Home, House & Garden, Sarasota Review, Architectural Review, Art and Architecture, and L’Architecture D’Aujourd’hui. It was unanimously hailed as a ground-breaking work of modern architecture. The house was also recognized as a significant technical advancement in forward-thinking passive solar engineering and urban design.

Fifty years later, the Umbrella House was recognized by Architectural Digest as one of the most remarkable homes of the twentieth century. The American Institute of Architects designated the Umbrella House as one of the 100 Most Important Buildings in Florida. In 2018, Rudolph's Umbrella House was included in the book, The Iconic House: American Masterworks Since 1900.

The Umbrella House represents one of the earliest and most influential works of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement and helped pave the way for the development of Lido Shores and the surrounding islands as a hotbed of mid-century modern architecture, that now includes works by Tim Seibert, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Carl Abbott, William Rupp, and Guy Peterson.

Umbrella House, Interior (source: Library of Congress) 

Saving the Umbrella House
In 1966, the pavilion roof was blown off the house by Hurricane Alma, and over the following thirty years, the home slowly fell into disrepair. In 2005, the building was partially restored and auctioned as 'a piece of art' with no takers. It was eventually sold to private conservators who professionally restored the house to its original 1953 condition, including most of the pergola roof. The conservation effort received several awards, including the AIA Honor Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation (2016) and Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Outstanding Achievement Award (2016).
In 2018, the State of Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation nominated the Umbrella House to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places; the listing was approved in 2019. It has been designated as a historic landmark by the City of Sarasota.
The Umbrella House was highlighted as one of fifteen important Paul Rudolph designs to be exhibited as part of the Paul Rudolph At 100 celebration sponsored by the U.S. Library of Congress (September 18 - November 8, 2018).
Architecture Sarasota maintains and supports the Umbrella House through lectures, tours, and other activities, with the goal of preserving it as a landmark work of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

Text source: Wikipedia page on the Hiss Residence.

Publication date 23 June, 2022