Black-and-white photo of Ralph Twitchell leaning against the structure of the Healy Guest House
Ralph Twitchell on site at the Healy Guest House in 1950. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Doing the unexpected is a requirement for any architect who wants to make history. Ralph Twitchell and his unique contributions to the post-war modernist movement are still prominent today.

The Road to Success

Born in Mansfield, Ohio, on July 27, 1890, Twitchell moved to Florida after his father passed away when he was a teenager. His passion for architecture led him to pursue an education in Montreal at McGill University. He transferred to Columbia University after two years at McGill and graduated with a BA in architecture in 1920 and a Masters in architecture in 1921.

It was four years later that he took on his first project in Sarasota. He oversaw the completion of a Venetian-style mansion for architect Dwight James Baum. From there, he purchased lots in the area and designed 13 Mediterranean-style homes to fill them. Even with these projects, it was another 11 years before he settled in Sarasota permanently. There, he would start the Sarasota School of Architecture.

The exterior of the Healy Guest House that sits at the edge of a body of water.
The Healy Guest House, also known as the Cocoon House is a 760 square foot cottage named for the polymer spray used to build the roof. Twitchell and Rudolph completed this project in 1950. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Architectural Foundation.

But before that began, he worked on projects that influenced his stylistic approach. Ralph Twitchell started his own design firm called Associated Builders after the move. He began to transition his style to a more modernist approach thanks to Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence. This is when he became known for experimenting with reinforced concrete, also known as lamolithic, glass structures and the overhang roof.

black-and-white image of a Twitchell residence.
Twitchell was known for his flat concrete roofs. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Perfect Partner

In 1941, Ralph Twitchell began working with Paul Rudolph, a significant future partner who helped him design many structures. Some of those structures became the foundation for the Sarasota School of Architecture, such as the Healy Guest House, Siegrist House and the Revere Quality House. The Sarasota School of Architecture paved the way for post-war innovative architectural concepts and encouraged a new generation of creative architects to pursue new ways of implementing design.

Twitchell and Rudolph only worked together for 10 years, but they used that time to their advantage. If the beginning of their relationship is any indication, they had five home projects underway in their first five months of working together. They parted ways after that decade of work, but their names will always be paired in history for the many ground-breaking designs they constructed together.

Exterior of the Revere Quality House
Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph designed the Revere Quality House in 1948. It was recently restored and is known for its concrete roof and the blurred lines between indoors and out. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Architectural Foundation.

Click here to learn more of Paul Rudolph’s story.

Atomic Ranch Best of Style 2021Tour one of Ralph Twitchell’s houses in our Best of Style issue!

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