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A glimpse ino the design process

For some people, the image of Florida is shaped not by theme parks and palm trees but by the fiction of John D. MacDonald, longtime resident of Siesta Key. His rough-diamond hero, Travis McGee, is the ultimate beach bum, man-about-the-waterfront and solver of mysteries.

McGee served as his creator's mouthpiece, speaking out in behalf of the state's ruined beauty: the poisoned Everglades, overdevelopment, building on the beaches. MacDonald crafted "strong statements about what man's greed has done and is doing to despoil our state's natural resources _ statements that are just as relevant today" as they were in the mid-'60s, writes critic Ed Hirshberg.

Tonight in Naples, the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognizes Seibert Architects of Sarasota with its 25-year "Test of Time" award for the home where MacDonald and his wife, Dorothy, lived for years.

The award honors works that, by the timelessness of their design, have influenced a particular bulding type. The MacDonald house, designed in 1966, draws on characteristics of Florida Cracker houses, and through the use of natural materials and compatible forms becomes one with its site, preserving existing mangroves and palm and oak trees.

In this essay, architect Edward J. "Tim" Seibert reflects on the design process and his relationship with John D. and Dorothy MacDonald during what he calls "a golden time" on the west coast of Florida.