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Architect About Town

Area’s best buildings: Standout structures help identify, Southwest Florida: Councilman Flanders Favorites

Architect About Town - Special to the Fort Myers News-Press

Architecture does many things: makes you wonder, makes you smile or, perhaps, makes you wince. But we can’t exist without it — at a minimum, its most basic function is shelter from the heat, the cold and the rain.

In the past few months I’ve been asking about local buildings that have made an impression on you. Have you sent in your nomination?

It could be a midcentury modern standout such as Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House on Sanibel or Bert Brosmith’s Hart Cottage on Keewaydin Island south of Naples. It could be an adorable bungalow (or bungalows) in Punta Gorda, or a Mediterranean Revival standout along or off McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers.

Public buildings qualify too. The possibilities are almost endless — so let us know some of your favorites.

I invited Michael Flanders, architect and councilman for the city of Fort Myers, to share his choices and explain why such standout buildings work.

To begin, I asked Flanders how his education and experience as an architect play a role in his position as a councilman. As noted on the City Council page of the city of Fort Myers website (

“Councilman Flanders believes his professional background, as a Florida architect is a valuable guide in city decisions involving planning, construction and design. One of his goals is to always improve the quality of the man-built environment within the city, thus influencing the quality of life of the citizens who dwell in it.”

Flanders noted in an e-mail that the recently completed Fort Myers Downtown Utility and Streetscape Improvements Project is a good example. As an architect who understands utilities, history, materials and pedestrians, he has worked with the city since the 1980s implementing this renovation. More than just streetlights and benches, the Streetscape project includes an infrastructure overhaul.

Councilman Flanders' Favorites List

Favorite regional building in Lee County: Southwest Florida International Airport (2005 — Miami Architect: Spillis Candela DMJM), which integrates the bold concept of a cantilevered airplane wing into the architecture. Huge areas of glazing allow for a tremendous amount of daylight and plenty of opportunities to view planes on the runway.

A straightforward white color scheme using terrazzo flooring sprinkled with shells; white, aluminum and stainless steel finishes; and uncomplicated vehicular circulation make this huge facility exceptionally elegant and functional.

Favorite public building in Fort Myers: Lee County Administration Building, the Courthouse Annex (circa 1960 by Gundersen Wilson Architects). He chose this one for all the right reasons: good circulation, natural ventilation, abundant daylight and as an exemplary addition to a historic building. No other public building in downtown offers more outdoor courtyard space or fixed sidewalk seating.

Favorite commercial building in Fort Myers: The Richards Building (circa 1920s) on Hendry Street: a traditional urban building with a presence. A substantial brick façade contrasts with an airy light-filled open entrance. The high canopy appears grand from underneath and reflects daylight into interior spaces through high transom windows and it has sizable operable windows on the upper floors.

Favorite residential building in Fort Myers: Without a doubt, the Henry Ford Home (circa 1910) on McGregor Boulevard. After seeing the damage done to Thomas Edison’s pre-fab home (imported from Maine) just after a hurricane, Henry Ford chose to invest in local hardwoods. He insisted that all structural members be oversized.

This house has deep overhangs providing maximum shade and forcing rain away from the house — appropriate for our climate while creating beautiful porches. This modest bungalow uses appropriate and attractive materials: shingle siding, metal roof and handcrafted details in both wood and masonry.

Favorite building designed by Flanders Architecture: Dean Street Court is an historic building (1412 Dean St., circa 1926) married to a new office building (1404 Dean St. circa 2000). The buildings share a stair, elevator and easements to make the two buildings feasible and code compliant. The entry is the centerpiece; an open-air courtyard created when the historic Dean Street facade was preserved but the original one-story building behind was demolished.

This project has it all: demolition, historic preservation, renovation, new construction, urban infill and a public courtyard.


  • Born: 1955 in Arcadia
  • Education: Graduated in 1973 from Fort Myers High School; bachelor of design degree from the University of Florida in 1977; master of architecture from Virginia Tech in 1981.
  • Career: Flanders decided at a young age to become an architect. His father, then the superintendent of schools for DeSoto County, hired architect William Frizzell to design a school. When the families became friends, he became curious about architects and wrote a school paper saying he’d be an architect. He has practiced architecture in Fort Myers for 27 years.
  • Houses: He grew up in a brick ranch-style house; lived in a Michigan model home after moving to Fort Myers in 1968. He lives with his wife and daughter in a midcentury home.
  • Political career: Flanders ran for Ward 4 City Council after sitting on three volunteer city boards. He’s been re-elected to the council twice.

Joyce Owens AIA RIBA