Icon: Gene Leedy
One of the original architects of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement; Winter Haven; age 82
[Photo: Brook Pifer]
» A good building to me is the honest use of materials, straightforward construction, no bullshit. So many architects, especially young architects, they play to the house. They’re trying to do something real dramatic. They go over budget, and it doesn’t work half the time.
» There wasn’t much to do in West Virginia, you know, so my friends and I used to go in the woods and build log cabins. We’d notch the logs and hold them together with West Virginia clay, so I was in the construction business at a very early age.
» Paul Rudolph worked in Sarasota. He was a very famous architect, and everybody wanted to work for him. After college, I went down there and told him I wanted to work for him, and he said, ‘What can you do?’ I said, ‘Well, I can do your design work.’ He laughed, and we became friends.
» Just about everything you see now is bad architecture. Most of the construction in this state is dominated by the contractor or the developer — and they want it cheap.
» Henry-Russell Hitchcock, one of the great architecture critics in the world, he wrote an article in 1952 for the Architectural Review in London, and he said that the greatest contemporary architecture in the world was being done by a group of young architects in Sarasota. I was supposed to put on a big program about what we were doing, and I had to think of a name for the brochure. In those days, they used to refer to the architects in Chicago as the ‘Chicago School,’ so I called us the ‘Sarasota School,’ and it stuck.
» The public has to be more aware of what they’ve got, like they just tore down the Riverview High School in Sarasota that Paul Rudolph did. That was a national monument, and they tore it down. We live in a Kleenex society. We use it and throw it away.
» Usually, the first-time client is very appreciative, but when the house is sold, that’s when the bad stuff starts. I’ve always said the urge to remodel is stronger than the sex drive.
» Sarasota used to be pretty open-minded. There were things you could do in Sarasota that you couldn’t do anyplace else. Paul Rudolph was down there doing some real avant garde stuff, so it attracted a lot of young guys. During the 1950s, Sarasota was probably the greatest place in the world to be an architect. To me, it was like Paris after World War I.
» There were about 10 or 15 of us. We were all good friends. No jealousy. In fact, we used to eat at this restaurant downtown for lunch all the time, and we would discuss architecture. I think it was called the Spanish Grill or something. It was our hangout.
» When you walk into a building, you should have a feeling for it. I do a lot of things the client might not be aware of, but subconsciously they are. Everything is in order and detailed nicely to give you a sense of peace.
» I was one of the first architects to start doing my own interiors because so many interior decorators were screwing up my buildings.
» Phil Hiss, he was a very wealthy guy, and he came to Sarasota and he decided he was going to improve the school system, so he ran for school board. He got elected. Well, every vote on the school board was 4 to 1, and he was the 1. He got pissed off, so he went out and campaigned for all his buddies and got them all elected, and he became chairman of the school board. The school board meetings lasted 15 minutes because he already had it all worked out. He was a very dynamic guy. He hired all of us young architects to do schools. Then, those schools got international recognition. Hiss, he appreciated good architecture. He was the catalyst.
» Sarasota is a great town, but the architecture in Sarasota today, it makes me want to throw up.
» I’m in Winter Haven, and Phil Hiss calls me: ‘Gene, I want you to do Brentwood Elementary School.’ This is on Friday, and he asks if I can come down to Sarasota Monday and sign the contract and start work on Tuesday. I said, ‘Yeah!’ That’s the way it worked.
» I spend a lot of time with my clients. When they come in, I know exactly what I’m going to do, but we spend two or three weeks talking about it until I just finally exhaust all of their ideas. Then, when I show them the design, they say, ‘Hell, that’s what I wanted!’
» I treat my buildings like children. I go and visit them.
» My philosophy on raising kids is give them lots of love and plenty of self-confidence. When my son Ingram was 4 years old — he has a very sophisticated computer business in Winter Haven now — some guy came in the office and said to Ingram, ‘Who are you?’ And Ingram said, ‘I’m Ingram Leedy, and I’m the best kid in the world.’ The guy said, ‘Boy, that’s impressive. Where did you get that idea?’ And Ingram said, ‘My daddy tells me that every day.’
Here are some links to learn more about the Sarasota School of Architecture and Leedy's work:
In case you missed it:
- Alex Sink is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Norman Braman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Bello Nock is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Zev Buffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga