Preserving Our Built History



Does our physical, built history even matter? It absolutely does, whether we care for it or not.

What stays? What goes? Who gets to say? We can all disagree, but the discussion has to be had.

Burns Court is unique in Sarasota. It was developed and built by Owen Burns, a significant figure in the early development of our town, and designed by architect Thomas Reed Martin. It’s 95-96, almost 100 years old.

As someone who is Sarasota born and raised, I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that otherwise relative newcomers bring for caring for and preserving things that were part of the reason for why they, and my forebears, came here in the first place. I think those of us who are from here, or that have been around for 3-4-plus decades, have been worn down, desensitized and dulled by a relentless tsunami of more and more people, and $$$. (Everybody’s a hot shot. Everybody’s somebody important. We get it.)

Speaking as an architect myself, inherently rigid structural engineering (pun un/intended) principles and the Florida Building Code can be utterly unforgiving. The code requires certain structural requirements to be met. Period. And we’re all well aware, that because this is Florida and we have storms, the structural requirements are significant. Unfortunately, these older structures are often given little to no structural value whatsoever, even though they have seemingly fared well for 100 years or so. This property doesn’t appear to be in a FEMA Flood Zone, so at least it doesn’t have the to contend with.

But what is the particular point of this “renovation?” Is this a “Level of Alteration” issue? Things can get rather technical and complicated fairly quickly. I do not know the particular details behind the decisions made on this project. 

Regardless, as always, I would recommend hiring an experienced, local, Florida-licensed architect in a case such as this, and so many others. Unlicensed activity is rampant enough as it is.

James S. Piatchuk is an architect and owner of Piatchuk Architecture.

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