The prairie meets the beach
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most prominent architects and proponents of the Prairie School of architecture starting around the turn of the 20th century. There may not be prairies on Anna Maria Island, but there is a lot of natural wonder, and one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fellows has designed homes on the Island to be organic with the environment.
The works of the Prairie School architects are usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs, broad overhanging eaves and windows grouped in horizontal bands with the landscape integrated into the design. The buildings were meant to appear as if they grew from the site rather than being placed upon it, invoking a wide, flat and natural look, like a Midwest prairie.
Thanks to H. Patterson Fletcher, a former apprentice at Taliesin, Wright’s architectural school in Arizona and Wisconsin, Wright’s philosophy has influenced some homes on Anna Maria. Fletcher has designed several houses on the Island, including one for his own residence in Anna Maria which he no longer owns. He has also worked on the van Wezel and Ruth Eckerd theaters as well as churches, restaurants, commercial and government buildings on Florida’s west coast.
Although the homes he has designed on Anna Maria have the distinctive Frank Lloyd Wright influence, they also have been adapted to a style that is appropriate for beachfront living. In order to meet the requirement of building 13 to 18 feet above sea level, Fletcher has avoided the stilt look of pilings under the homes and replaced it with fireplaces, stairs or elevator units which visually anchor the home to the lot. He orientates the home toward the view by using solid walls and high windows on the street side, creating a private and undisturbed environment for the residents and silencing the rest of the world.
Looking out through the living room windows of an Anna Maria gulfront home he designed in the early 1990s you’ll feeling like your floating on the crystal water, riding above the waves. His design objective is to have rooms flow naturally from one to the other avoiding a boxy look. Even his roof levels are varied while still maintaining the same slope. What he learned from Wright is that space and natural materials are the major components of design. He makes a special effort to use materials in their natural form including coral rock, stone and wood, both inside and outside. Like Wright, Fletcher also designs furnishings for his clients as well as landscaping designs and details specific to beachfront living.
Pat Fletcher didn’t build a lot of homes on Anna Maria, so spotting one could prove to be difficult, however, there is one on Gulf Drive near 56th Street in Holmes Beach currently on the market with a local real estate broker. Although this particular home is not waterfront, it does have many of the same features with open decks for sunset viewing and distinctive windows typical of his style.
If Anna Maria Island isn’t an architect’s dream I don’t what is. H. Patterson Fletcher has built and lived on the Island and has integrated the Frank Lloyd Wright education he received to make the most of the Island’s beautiful settings. Organic architecture means being one with the environment and living in the space not just within the walls of a home. What better space is there to live in than a home on Anna Maria Island?