This week's profile is on Mark H. Smith, AIA of Smith Architects, PA. This Siesta Key native specializes in contemporary green design and project administration for residential and commercial projects throughout Florida's Gulf Coast. We had a chance to interview Smith and find out what led to his career in design and what inspires his work.
Q: What prompted you to enter into the field of architecture?
SMITH: It became apparent to my mother I was going to be an architect when I was a small child playing with building blocks. From Lincoln Logs to Legos, it was one design build project after another. As I got older, I realized that I was drawn to architecture (no pun intended). I can't imagine doing anything else.
Q: Which key influencers would you say helped craft your particular style of design?
SMITH: Like most young architects that grew up in the '60s and '70s I was inspired by the modern architectural movement of Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, and the like. Their use of indigenous materials and site specific design made so much sense to a young architect-to-be.
Q: What would you consider to be one of your personal favorite buildings designed by an American architect?
SMITH: "Falling Water" by Frank Lloyd Wright is a renown masterpiece of modern architecture and an inspiration to anyone with a pulse! Hard to believe this year marks the 75th anniversary of this National Historic Landmark located in Western Pennsylvania. The building is just as beautiful and timeless today as when it was first built.
Q: With the unfortunate loss of so many beautiful buildings across America, what would you say is one of the biggest local demolition tragedies this town has suffered?
SMITH: Riverview High School by Paul Rudolph was right here in Sarasota and I was lucky enough to study there in the early '70s. The school incorporated "green" design before people were thinking green. It had moveable glass walls that allowed cross ventilation. It had 8 foot wide concrete sunshades protecting the classrooms from the Florida sun. The school had light monitors in the hallways to allow the hot air to rise up, drawing in the cooler air under the sunshades through the classrooms. The light monitors also provided natural light to filter into the hallways making an incredibly pleasant learning environment...without air-conditioning! Unfortunately a narrow-minded school board followed the recommendation of an egocentric school superintendent and Riverview was demolished in 2009. We all must be on a constant vigil to preserve our architectural heritage.
Riverview High School by Paul Rudolph
Sarasota is lucky to have this talented and insightful architect in our midst! Smith is known for successfully bridging the gap between careful preservation efforts and bringing contemporary updates to existing design. He exercises green principles wherever possible in all new projects. Smith's studio is located at 5032 Calle Minorga on Siesta Key. For more information, please visit www.smith-architects.com or call 941.346.7205.