Meet the Team is a series of interviews featuring the various professionals on our project team – both in-front and behind-the-scenes – who regularly provide valuable input, countless design iterations, environmental surveys and much more. Without these talented individuals, we would not be where we are today in realizing the possibilities of The Bay Park.
Jerry, a local Sarasotan, joined the planning and design team as the Lead Architect for The Bay project. Along with his team at Sweet Sparkman, a local, multi-disciplinary architecture and planning firm specializing in community-oriented projects, Jerry is responsible for the design of many on-site structures featured in the Park. This includes the design of the concession and restroom pavilion, the shade structures throughout the park as well as the reading room shade structure, which is part of Phase 1. We interviewed Jerry to learn a bit more about his background, his work on regional planning projects throughout Florida and what excites him about the future of The Bay.
Can you share a bit more about your background, experience and personal story?
“I started my career as a draftsman at my father’s architectural firm in Knoxville before moving to Manchester, England to intern at Buttress Fuller Geoffrey Alsop Practice before spending a year studying at the University of Manchester. When I returned to the U.S., I received a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Tennessee and then returned to work at my father’s firm from 1992 – 2000. I then went on to obtain my Master’s in Landscape Architecture and Planning from the University of Virginia in 2001 where I was recruited to be Vice President of Design at the firm of iconic Sarasota architect Frank Folsom Smith until 2004.
In 2004 I teamed-up with Todd Sweet to form Sweet Sparkman Architects. In 2012 and 2016, we were privileged to exhibit our work at the Architectural Biennale in Venice, Italy and in 2018 we were awarded “Firm of the Year” by the Florida/Caribbean American Institute of Architects. Now, with a staff of 27, Sweet Sparkman Architects specializes in educational facilities, fire station design, civic community spaces, high-end residential homes and interior design. The firm is committed to supporting and being an intricate part of our local community.
My teaching experience also spans over three decades from instructing at the undergraduate design studios at the University of Virginia through the Gilliland Teaching Fellowship and Dupont Teaching Fellowship. I have also been an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee (1996-2004) and the University of Florida (2017).
I am also an accomplished musician playing the Dobro (slide guitar) and mandolin and perform at many local venues around the Tampa Bay area.”
What is your favorite park and your contribution or role in development?
“From a local perspective, Siesta Beach Park was an extraordinary experience professionally. We were tasked with making public architecture for the broadest range of people in mind, in an amazing natural environment. The process of understanding what the public wants and applying design to that objective was incredibly gratifying. The experience led me to understand how design can help address issues of inclusion and diversity.
Part of the challenge at Siesta Beach was access: how to create elevated public spaces that are universally accessible. Interesting concepts emerged around accessibility; converting ADA ramps into places that engage visitors with native landscapes and coastal environments, cantilevered walkways that protect the dunes, but allow visitors access to the beach and open pavilions that offer spaces for shade, storm protection and social gatherings. All of these endeavors were focused around how design can serve a wide range of needs and a diverse population.”
What excites you about The Bay Park design/plan, process, and team? What is your favorite and most rewarding part of the work?
“The Bay Park brings the notion of inclusion and access to the forefront. I’m excited to be part of a broad effort that places value on public space and making it accessible to everyone. This is a place for all to use and enjoy. Our community should be very proud that we are preserving public space along the bayfront for generations to come.”