Will Codes Allow Creativity?



The future of form-based codes has architects in Sarasota drafting fresh resistance to regulations some worry could stifle creativity in the field. But city officials overseeing the lengthy process of revising standards say every effort will be made to allow for groundbreaking work in the city.

It’s an issue that has come up before during the nearly four-year process of revising the city’s building rules. The Urban Design Studio has carefully looked to update the form-based codes, implemented in the city core as part of the Downtown Master Plan, to better ensure both developers and residents can predict the sort of growth that will be allowed in the community. That includes architectural standards, but, especially in the birthplace of the Sarasota School of Architecture, that matter has for some time stirred uneasiness in a the sector of the industry most focused on innovative design.

Javi Suarez, president of the American Institute of Architects Gulf Coast Chapter, says his organization doesn’t oppose form-based codes entirely but wants to make sure rules don’t encroach too much on the ability of architects to design good work. “When they try and regulate what type of material, what shape and proportion of openings are allowed or the slope of the roofs, those are things we feel are best left to architects,” Suarez says.

Karin Murphy, director of the city’s Urban Design Studio, says the intention of the codes, though, isn’t to hamper vision, just to define when architects can work without intense scrutiny in public settings. She noted unrest in the city after The Vue pulled a permit without going through a pubic hearing process, and says the goal of form-based codes is to make sure that, when that happens, it doesn’t result in construction that leaves the public angry at being left out of the process. But she noted the city’s plans for architectural standards at the moment allow for extreme creativity in a category for “iconic structures.” It’s just that those types of plans will need to be publicly vetted. “I don’t want to limit creativity,” she says. The goal of the codes, she says, is to create a system that allows for creativity in design, but also for public assurances.

Architects and city officials on Tuesday evening met to discuss making sure architectural standards account for the concerns of professionals. The Urban Design Studio also plans to host meetings at the Selby Public Library on Oct 27 and 28 to get feedback from the public.

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