Peterson has never been interested in copying these icons; he'd rather build on them—sometimes literally. Site and zoning constraints and a prime waterfront location presented some puzzling scale issues on his recent addition to the 1,000-square-foot Revere Quality House, a Ralph Twitchell/Paul Rudolph creation on Siesta Key, for example. FEMA codes required the new structure's lowest floor to be 8 feet above grade, which put it awkwardly on level with the Revere House's roof. Peterson's solution—meant to preserve its low profile, yet support the cost of the lot—was to create a two-building compound. He faithfully restored the Revere House, now reconceived as a pool cabana or guest quarters, and added a pool on axis with its covered patio. Meanwhile, setback lines forced the new 4,700-square-foot structure onto a rear sliver of the lot, resulting in a long linear house that sits perpendicularly to the old one. Peterson rotated it slightly off axis to engage the Revere House across a courtyard and added a planted patio underneath to preserve the Revere House's sight lines. Sections of the wall directly adjacent to the dainty lower house are opaque, so the occupants don't look down on its roof.
In contrast to the neutral colors of the new stucco, ipe, and glass structure, Peterson pulled the Revere House's saturated colors into the landscape with peacock blue and rust red walls and with a lemon yellow pool perch. “Guy has built on Paul Rudolph's work in its simplicity and almost Mondrianesque geometry,” says retired Atlanta architect Lewis Nix, FAIA, who joint-ventured with Peterson on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Critical Care Center. “He's been able to translate a lot of Rudolph's theory into much larger structures. He's also extremely easy to work with. He sticks to his guns but wins people over with his talent and calm, reassuring attitude.”native son
Peterson credits Harry Merritt, his master's thesis chairman at the University of Florida in Gainesville, for helping him develop a modernist attitude. “He taught me about the space outside the house and between elements of architecture,” Peterson says, “and that the sequence of moving through space is a process—an event you set up from beginning to end. I've carried that with me and still look at it like music. There's something lyrical about architecture if you approach it that way.”
Peterson has lived virtually his entire life in Florida, but it took him 20 years to return to Sarasota full time. After finishing graduate school in 1978, he went to work for Barrett Daffin & Carlin, a large architecture and engineering firm in Tallahassee. There he met Ivan Johnson, AIA, who headed up the architecture division, and in 1980 the two formed Johnson Peterson Architects. “He was 10 years older and had good contacts,” Peterson says of the union. Working from their Tallahassee office, the partners garnered a statewide reputation and numerous design awards for project types ranging from residential to state and government buildings. Around 1984, when Sarasota School architect Jim Holliday became terminally ill, Holliday and his son Michael asked for help running their Sarasota practice. After the elder Holliday's death, the three architects joined up as Johnson Peterson Holliday, splitting their time between Tallahassee and Sarasota. During Peterson's frequent trips to the Sarasota office, he felt the pull of his hometown, and when Michael Holliday, AIA, decamped to California in 1989, Peterson moved back to Sarasota to run the Johnson Peterson satellite. Eleven years later, he split to start his own firm, Guy Peterson/Office for Architecture. “By then our offices were operating completely independently and I was tired of public work,” Peterson says. “I was emerging as a different kind of practice, and I gutted and rebuilt the office to reflect my new identity.”
Around that time, two substantial commissions helped him focus his energies on houses. Both projects offered him creative license to develop his interest in light and shadow, color, and the quality of space between buildings. One was a 10,000-square-foot house overlooking Sarasota Bay near the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Impeccably proportioned and detailed, it features nine shades of white and a three-story structural curtain wall of blue-tinted soundproof glass. An interior vaulted gallery connects two cubes—the main house and guesthouse—that are carved away to create view corridors.
Peterson's parents were also gracious patrons, hiring him to design a new home on the Oyster Bay property where he grew up. “Mom always loved modern architecture, and Dad likes to say that Mom was the only person he ever met who could exceed an unlimited budget,” Peterson laughs. That job coincided with work on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Critical Care Center, and the two ventures crystallized his priorities. “The hospital project took five years; meanwhile, I realized I could really wrap my arms around these smaller projects,” he says. “Plus I had an opportunity to work with the end users, not a team of committee members.”
Whether presenting to a committee or a private client, the level of rigor and invention is the same. In addition to learning as much as he can about the owner and site, Peterson asks to see examples of things they don't like. “If they just show you things they like, they expect to see that,” he says. “I'm not here to draw up what they've already seen, and I don't want to be prejudiced by that.” He begins his design process with loose pencil sketches—abstract perspectives and elevations, which gradually develop into elaborate color renderings on yellow trace that will be the clients' first glimpse of his ideas. “When I'm presenting to a client, in my mind I'm still presenting to a jury of faculty,” he says. “They're going to chew me up and throw this back at me if I can't defend myself. I try and take it to a level where I have it well-resolved, and that's proven to be a very successful approach.”