Thursday, May 25, 2006

Web Discussion About Riverview High

LottaLiving is a site that indicates " Your source for Mid Century Modern Lifestyle, Design, Art, Furniture and Architecture". It has a discussion forum about Riverview.

The following is from this site and is attributed to Christopher Domin & Joseph King:
Riverview High School is Rudolph's first major public project completed in Florida. To create an intense environment for learning, Rudolph chose the inward-focused courtyard prototype as a way to densify this rural site, offering an approximation of urbanism within an open field.

This two-story composition, organized around a central public space, is enclosed to the north and south by classroom blocks, a cafeteria and library block to the west, and a skeletal steel colonnade with shade canopies to the east. A sky-lit gymnasium and auditorium are placed south of the courtyard and two single-story buildings, containing the administrative offices and medical clinic, are nestled along the western edge of the courtyard.

A steel frame with single with brick infill is an unusual detail among Rudolph's generally ephemeral Florida work. The thin verticality of the black frame was meant to evoke the dark slender trunks of the southern yellow pines that are numerous on the site. The choice of brick and steel as the primary materials in this symmetrically disposed composition is certainly reminiscent of the work of Mies van der Rohe in Chicago, but is modulated and honed for its specific context.

As with most of Rudolph's projects in Florida, this composition is arranged and detailed to encourage air movement and mediate the intensity of the sun. A series of staggered precast concrete sunshades dominates the facades of the classroom buildings in an attempt to protect the large sliding glass doors and operable windows from direct solar gain.

The climactically responsive theme is continued into the interior corridor system with a series of ventilated steel-and-glass monitors rising above the roof. Considered in section, the semi-enclosed interior circulation is carefully composed to allow light and air to penetrate through the stacked corridors.

This project came into existence primarily through the largess of Philip Hiss, Rudolph's most avid patron in Florida, who was also chairman of the Sarasota school board during this time.

There are also some excellent pictures of the building when it was built.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Recent School Board Decision

Here is an article from the Pelican Press - a Sarasota newspaper:

Save Riverview campaign continuing to grow

But the board continues with plans for a new high school facility
By Rachel Brown Hackney

When Molly Cardamone appeared before the Sarasota County School Board on May 16, she spoke not only as a former Sarasota mayor on a mission to preserve historic structures in the city but as a retired teacher whose first posting was at Riverview High School.

Noting her personal connection to the 1958 Paul Rudolph structures on the Riverview campus – examples of the internationally known Sarasota School of Architecture, which the board seems prepared to raze to make way for a new school – Cardamone pleaded for preservation. She and others united in the Save Riverview effort were dismayed to have learned on the morning of the board meeting, she said, that an item on the consent agenda dealt with the ranking of construction managers for the Riverview project; that item mentioned “demolition of the existing facility.”

The agenda item seemed to contradict a promise Superintendent Gary Norris and board Chairman Carol Todd had made on April 28 to her and others, Cardamone said, that “there would be community dialogue” before any further steps were taken in regard to the Rudolph buildings.

Norris responded that the agenda item did not violate the spirit of that agreement. Board attorney Art Hardy explained further that, if the board approved the action, that simply meant district officials could begin to negotiate with a contractor to manage the eventual project at Riverview. “Under any scenario, there will be demolition involved in this project,” he pointed out.“This in no way binds the board to any particular plan,” Hardy said. Responding to a question from board member John P. Lewis, Hardy added, “You don’t know exactly what you’re asking the construction manager to do yet, but you want to have somebody on line so that when you say, ‘This is what we want to do,’ they can hit the ground running with it.”

Following the discussion, the board voted 5-0 to approve the consent agenda, including the Riverview item.

Cardamone’s appearance at the board meeting reflected a recent groundswell of support to save the Rudolph structures. The movement doesn’t involve just local residents, according to Cardamone and well-known Sarasota architect Carl Abbott, who spoke with the Pelican Press in a joint telephone interview. The London Times recently featured an article on the school board’s plans, Abbott said, and architectural journals have spread the word across the United States.

Lee Byron, a real estate agent with Michael Saunders and Company, told the Pelican Press she had taken a petition to a recent meeting of the firm’s agents and had been met with enormous support for saving the buildings. Referring to her fellow agents, she said, “They just exploded in wanting to sign it.”

At the May 16 meeting, Cardamone held up another petition filled with signatures that had been gathered in just 10 minutes, she said, after discussion of the issue at a function attended by a Save Riverview committee member.

When he first learned the school board was looking at tearing down the Rudolph buildings, Abbott said, the emotional toll was “like a tear in my heart.” He conceded the structures are “not in good condition,” but he is adamant they can be rehabilitated through use of state grant funds designated for such purposes.“It makes sense to reuse what is of value,” he added.

Board member Laura Benson knows only too well the limitations of the current facilities at Riverview – including the Rudolph structures: Her son was a freshman there this year. During a special meeting the week before the May 16 session, she referred to the school’s condition as “deplorable.”

In a telephone interview, Benson expressed frustration over the fact that the Save Riverview effort had not begun in earnest until the past few months, after the board members started discussing details about constructing a new high school on the Riverview campus.

She was introduced to problems with the current facilities in January 2003, she said, when Florida’s first lady, Columba Bush, paid a visit to the school. The members of Bush’s entourage were wearing black suits, Benson said. When the party exited the buildings, everyone’s clothes were “covered in a fine white dust … The dust just blew my mind.” She found herself thinking, “The kids are breathing this.”

The existing school also is too crowded for its student population, Benson said. “All the kids are on top of each other” as they move from class to class, and “parking is horrendous.”During the May 16 board meeting, Vice Chairman Frank Kovach noted he was a Riverview alumnus. “That school had pretty poor classrooms in the ‘70s,” he said, adding that Riverview students need a 21st-century facility.

Benson said she happily would vote to give any group wanting to move the Rudolph structures to another location the money the board would have to spend on demolishing them, to help pay for the move. Regarding the board’s plans to erect a new school and the effort to save the historic structures, Benson added, “Everybody is doing everything for the right reason.” However, “I don’t know how to make it a win-win at this point.”

[Check other postings on this site for ways you can help]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rudolph and Florida Houses

In the early 1940's a strong group of modernist architects, beginning with Ralph Twitchell, emerged in Sarasota, Florida. Twitchell’s work was strongly inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Paul Rudolph joined with Twitchell and they adapted modern principles to the tropical settings of SW Florida.

This was the beginning of the Sarasota School of Architecture. During the 1940's and 50's, this group of architects achieved widely recognized success in residential design. Modern architects, especially those in Miami were inspired by the work of this group. Sarasota became a showcase for modern architecture as a result.

Many well known residential designs came from Rudolph and his collaboration with this group of architects. Among these are the Healy Guest House (Cocoon House), the Milam House, and the Umbrella House.

A Sarasota Magazine article describes some of Rudolph's life in Sarasota.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Riverview, Rudolph and the National Press

There's a storm of controversy brewing in the national press over the Sarasota County School Board's decision to tear down Riverview High School.

Articles recently appeared in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Boston Globe, Dwell, and Architectural Record.

Why is this? Apparently, the Paul Rudolph-designed original buildings on the Riverview campus are well-known works of 20th-century architecture and primary historic assets. The district would tear them down and replace them with a parking lot.

I hope it is not too late for the School Board to stop and look for ways to renovate, retrofit, upgrade and reuse the Paul Rudolph-designed Riverview High School buildings as part of its overall plan for an enlarged new campus. At current construction prices, adaptive reuse of these historic buildings just might be cheaper than brand-new construction. What can I do to help?

Martie Lieberman

The writer helped start the Sarasota Architectural Foundation and resides in Sarasota.
[Letter published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune 5/19/06]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Member of First Class Remembers RHS

No longer a Sarasota resident, I am now a "snowbird," spending my winters there and loving it. I was a member of the first class of graduates at Riverview, and president of the junior class that first traumatic year when we had only undergrads. We survived the stressful completion of the construction of Riverview and the establishment of many of the icons that would remain. It is with pride that I point out to my children (and now my first grandchild) beautiful pictures of the Riverview building in that first yearbook. I love driving my visiting friends past the building and showing it off as part of the Sarasota tour of beautiful places. I'm not aware of other high schools anywhere that are quite like Riverview. It is much more than an educational institution; it is a landmark. We knew there were problems with the structure, even in that first year.

Water flooded the walkways, air-conditioning was non-existent, and cracks appeared in the library walls (Doesn't all new construction come with problems?). However, there were then, as there are now, greater considerations. The uniqueness of the design of the building made us think of ourselves as unique. I feel privileged to have been a student in that special, unparalleled environment. A school building that is also a work of art is a rarity. The original building symbolizes Sarasota's appreciation of history, artistic design, and quality of education. Can there be any greater reason for its restoration? Please let the Riverview building stand.

Susan Sampey Wertz
RHS Class of 1960

Current Photos of Riverview From Carl Abbott

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You Can Help - Contact the Sarasota School Board

The Sarasota County School Board plans to construct a new building on a parking lot at Riverview High School and demolish the historic Paul Rudolph structures that now exist there. This plan was about to go forward when our group of concerned citizens, including such leading local architects as Carl Abbott, Guy Peterson and James Bowen; former Sarasota mayor (and former Riverview High teacher) Mollie Cardamone; and former School Board chair Lee Byron, asked the board to assess whether the Rudolph buildings could be rehabilitated and remain part of the campus. This was the recommendation as recently as 2004 from BMK, the Sarasota architectural firm that was commissioned to do a long-range review of the facilities at Riverview High.

Because the existing buildings are inadequate to today’s needs, the school board is eager to move forward, so we have a very short time in which to make our case. If you share our desire to preserve this important landmark, please call or write school board members, local newspapers, your friends and community leaders with this three-part message about why Riverview High School should be saved.

(This is a summary of the case for saving Riverview, but you should put it into your own words when you call or write—sincere, individual expressions, not a word-for-word canned message, will convince officials that there’s widespread support for saving Riverview.)

One: Rehabilitating the Building Is Cost-Efficient and Conserves Resources.
The estimated cost of demolishing the five Rudolph buildings and constructing a new facility at Riverview is now at $90 million. We believe it would cost no more—and could cost less—if the Rudolph structures were kept as part of the project and brought up to today’s standards. And just as was done with the Federal Building downtown and the Municipal Auditorium, the school could eventually receive federal funding to restore it to its former glory.

Two: Riverview High School is an important Sarasota—and even international—landmark.
The creation of Paul Rudolph, most influential architect of the 20th Century, Riverview High School is recognized around the world. Architectural Digest, the London Times and others have recently sounded the alarm at the idea of its destruction. But not only is it an important work of architecture that should be a focus of civic pride in a city known for its cultural character; it is an important part of our community’s history. We have lost too many of our historic treasures. If it is practical and feasible to save this one, we should do so.

Three: The Rudolph buildings can be brought up to today’s standards so that students get the technology, safety and amenities they need.
Many of the problems in the original buildings reflect a system-wide problem in proper maintenance of school facilities. The original structure is basically sound and it can be brought into compliance with today’s codes and educational needs.

School Board Member contact information:
Sarasota School Board
1960 Landings Blvd,
Sarasota, FL 34231

(941) 927-9000
fax (941) 927-4025

Dr. Carol Todd Chair
Mr. Frank H. Kovach Vice Chair
Mrs. Laura Benson
Dr. Kathy Kleinlein
Mr. John P. Lewis

Thank you!

An Alum Writes About Riverview

Although I don't get back to Sarasota as often as I'd like, I still find comfort in knowing a few familiar landmarks remain. I was saddened to hear that my high school was on the brink of demolition and I applaud all of you for your hard work in attempting to keep Riverview a viable historic entity.

Our son has chosen a career which includes helping to preserve historic properties here in Durham, N.C. He has been on the ground floor of this movement and the train is swiftly pulling out of the station. It does take hard work and determination, but the results are astounding. The old and young of us will all benefit from the preservation, not only of the architecture, but of costly building products, as well. What a travesty it is to see the needless waste and destruction of perfectly good building products which could be updated and and put to continued good use.
Wishing you well in your efforts.

Judy Wiese (Lanterman...class of 64)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Statement from Carl Abbott FAIA on Riverview High School designed by Paul Rudolph

Presently, Riverview High School is in very poor condition. However, the original Rudolph buildings are structurally sound and can be restored to meet current school standards at a cost less than that of new construction. With Historic Designation, the buildings are not required to meet all current codes and they can be restored using State Funds, as was done by the City with our local Federal Building and Municipal Auditorium.

In 2002, BMK Architects carried out a “Long-Range Facilities Review” (app. 500 pages). In September 2004, a Memorandum to Superintendent Dr. Norris, from BMK Architects over viewing this extensive report on Riverview High School stated “plan on replacing all existing buildings on campus…with the exception of the original Rudolph buildings, which should be rehabilitated”.

Riverview High School designed by architect Paul Rudolph is an important part of Sarasota’s built history and a significant part of the Architectural Legacy of America.

Carl Abbott

[Click here to access a printable petition and directions for returning it to help SAVE Riverview]

A Model for Saving Riverview?

The restoration of Crown Hall, on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, has been suggested as a comparable project for the rehabilitation (and possible eventual restoration) of the Rudolph building on the Riverview campus in Sarasota.

The Crown Hall building was designed by Mies van der Rohe. This building was built in 1956 and over the years has shown it's age in wear, tear and changes. The restoration was completed last year.

An excellent history of the buildong and the story of its restoration can be found here.

Another web site with details about this restoration is the Illinois Institute of Technology site.

The picture below is from the web site describing the restoration:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dr. Jean Marani Remembers Riverview

I am writing because I have become aware of the school board's intent to abolish the school and build a new one. Distressing news.

Riverview is a unique and beautiful school with great historic significance for its architecture and the fact that it was the first new high school built in the county probably since Sarasota High. At the time there was great rejoicing that Sarasota had grown to need another high school!

You may remember I came to Riverview with Ed Brown, the first principal when it opened. I was the curriculum director and taught history as well.

My classroom faced the courtyard--a magnificent view. We all loved the openness reflecting the attitude of the faculty that learning was an opening experience. Our students loved the building for that reason and because it was forward looking.

Paul Rudolph, the architect, was quite famous, taught at Yale. I think he came to the dedication along with Governor Leroy Collins. We always had visitors coming to view the building and especially to note the influence of its design on the students' learning.

Sarasota has always been noted for its devotion to the arts and its forwardness. To lose a landmark such as Riverview would be a blight on the city's reputation. Let me know how I can help.

Jean V. Marani, Ph.D.

Community Meeting Summary

Thank you who were able to attend the Community Meeting on May 11. We have been challenged to show community support and this was an important step.

One of the actions that was suggested was that each of us should consider calling School Board members and County Commissioners and tell them of our own interest in finding a way to save the Rudolph building on the Riverview Campus. A small group was formed that will put together some talking points aimed at helping with this. This information will be sent soon.

The meeting covered:
  • what has been done so far - a "task force" has been organized to look at what can be done.
  • Task force members have talked with each School Board member individually to find out what could be done and to get insight on how to do this. Members have also talked with Dr Norris and Dr Todd (Board Chair) twice.
  • The working concept is that the important issues are the history of this building and its place within Sarasota's history, the needs of the school children and the cost of rehabilitation.
  • A dedicated web site for "SAVE Riverview" is being set up. One purpose of this web site would be to solicit support (via petition) from a wider audience.
  • The History Center has prepared a "cover nomination" for the Sarasota School of Architecture movement. This would allow individual buildings or groups of buildings typical of this style to be recognized for their significance.
  • The basic structure appears to be sound, although maintenance has been neglected over the years.
  • Petitions were available for attendees to take with them. Please return signed petitions to James Bowen (Bowen Architecture, 513 Central Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236).
Other comments during the meeting were:
  • "Recycling" our buildings is the greatest example of sustainablity.
  • "Ringling to Rudolph" is the theme of the Florida Trust state meeting to be held in Sarasota in May 2007
  • It is not OK to tear down buildings. There is value here. This expresses our identity.
  • This is a great community asset - important to save it.
  • We are known as the "Cultural Coast", why would we allow this important building to be demolished?
  • The soul of a city is built of layers....layers of history. This is a cultural asset.
  • This is the first High School in the "county", Sarasota High was always considered the "City High School".

We will be forwarding more information when we have it.

Mollie Cardamone Speaks About SAVE Riverview

In August 1958 I was a first year teacher at the brand new beautiful Riverview High School. What a thrill it was to be a part of the founding faculty of what is today recognized as a premier high school in the nation.

As Sarasota is a relatively young community it is especially necessary to save public buildings that reflect our history. The beautiful restored County Court House, the City Auditorium, the Federal Building, and the recent vote to give the old red brick Sarasota High School building a new life are among the many other fine examples of preservation that make us all proud of our heritage.

I have appreciated the work our school boards (past and present) have done to restore or rehabilitate historic school buildings in our county such as Southside, Bay Haven and others. I now only hope they will see the value in continuing the use of the widely acclaimed Paul Rudolph designed Riverview High School building. It must be saved as a prime example of the Sarasota School of Architecture. The history of modern American architecture identifies Riverview High School as a prominent building and we, the citizens of Sarasota, should value the structure for what it is.

SAVE RIVERVIEW, it is an important icon of our community for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Mollie C Cardamone,
Faculty member of RHS 1958-1962
and former Mayor City of Sarasota

Monday, May 15, 2006

Petition to SAVE Riverview

This SAVE Riverview petition can be printed, signed by people and then returned to James Bowen at:

Bowen Architecture, 513 Central Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236-4965

The petition can be downloaded here.

The petition could also be scanned and e-mailed to James Bowen at

Take the time to print it, sign it, have your colleagues sign it, then return it to James. Your support will help save this building.


Riverview in the News

Save Riverview Group Organizes Supporters

With the future of Riverview High School hanging in limbo, a group of architects and preservationists are organizing their cause to convince school board members, parents and students that the 48-year-old Paul Rudolph buildings on campus are worth saving.

An initial task force has been meeting with school officials for several weeks, and yesterday about 30 people met to organize a larger community effort to save the buildings.

In April, the school board asked for further analysis of the existing buildings and stalled an earlier recommendation to demolish them. That analysis, along with input from the Florida Department of Education, is expected to be presented to the school board in June.

“It hasn’t left the station, but the train’s already running,” said architect Guy Peterson of the time-sensitive situation. Members of the task force explained several of their key points for saving the Rudolph buildings. First, they say rehabilitating the buildings would likely reduce the total cost of the project to rebuild Riverview, currently estimated at $90 million. That claim is based on the high cost of construction materials and the likelihood that that a restoration and retrofitting project would qualify for grant money because of the historic status of the buildings.

Architect James Bowen pointed out the international interest in the issue. He said major architecture publications such as Architecture Record have reported the plans to demolish Riverview and that a petition to save the Rudolph buildings is now circulating among architects worldwide. “It’s one of the first really important modern schools around theworld,” said architect Carl Abbott. Part of the group’s goal is to bring that knowledge and energy to local residents. Tearing down the historic buildings would be a “black eye” to a community that purports to be a cultural center, several people said.

Rather than destroy the buildings, the group is asking that the school district tie its new buildings into that original campus, which was the first high school built in Sarasota County
outside city limits.

“We have to teach the children that it’s not OK to tear down these buildings,” Abbott said.

[From SRQ Magazine's Page One Newsletter]

Picture shows architects Carl Abbott, James Bowen, Guy Peterson.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SAVE Riverview Community Meeting

Dear readers:

You are probably aware of the Sarasota School Board’s plan to renovate the Riverview High School Campus. The current proposal calls for a phased demolition of essentially the entire campus followed by construction of new buildings.

You are also probably aware of the architectural and historical significance of the Paul Rudolph designed buildings at Riverview - a building that would be demolished under the current plan.

A group of local architects has established a task force to see what could be done to save the main Rudolph building. This group now includes several community members that have this same interest. The group has met twice with the School Superintendent and School Board President looking for a path that could meet the school system’s requirements yet save the Rudolph building.We are still pursuing options that seem acceptable.

The school system leadership has challenged us to show community support for this objective.

To this end we have scheduled a meeting to tell the community what we have been doing, why we think this is important and to ask for support. Readers of this blog are likely be supportive of this effort. Thus we would like to ask you to attend the meeting if your schedule permits. Feel free to invite a colleague or someone else you know that might be interested in helping find a way to save this important community building.

The task force includes architects Carl Abbott, James Bowen, Joe King, Guy Peterson and Mark Ramaeker; community members include Mollie Cardamone, Dick Clapp and Janice Green.

We have a meeting scheduled for 8 AM, on Thursday May 11 at the new Sarasota Herald Tribune building (Main St) Community Room. We will be telling our story and looking for you support. Please attend if possible.

Information about the school board proposal and the Rudolph building can be found at these links:

Riverview in the News,
Save Riverview Update,
SAVE Riverview High School.

Thank you and we hope to see you on Thursday!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Riverview in the News

This item appeared in the Apr 20, 2006 of Preservation Online. It is reprinted with their permission.

From Preservation Online, the online magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sarasota Plans to Demolish Paul Rudolph School

Story by Margaret Foster / Apr. 20, 2006

A 48-year-old Florida high school designed by modern architect Paul Rudolph could be torn down for a parking lot. Riverview High School, located in Sarasota, Fla., was the first important commercial building designed by Rudolph (1918-1997), the father of the Sarasota school of architecture. Owned by the Sarasota County school board, the steel-frame structure's concrete sunshades were removed years ago, and the flat roof was replaced with a metal hip one.

Last week, after a meeting with preservationists and architects, the county school board agreed to hold off on voting on the final design for the new 3,000-student high school that will be built on Riverview's 42-acre site. But the board has already voted to destroy the 1958 structure.

"We have a vested in in history and preserving what we can preserve," says Carol Todd, county school board chair. "The building has been modified many times. It's a complex issue. It's balancing what we can afford with our students' needs."

A new school will cost $80 million, half of the school board's annual budget, Todd says.

"[Last week's] meeting was very cordial and friendly, but the superintendent really has a clear idea of what he wants to do, and it doesn't include keeping the old building," says local architect Joe King, a member of the month-old group Save Riverview and author of the 2002 book "The Florida Houses."

King's group wants the school board to incorporate the old building into the new school, and next week it will present the board with alternative architectural plans. Other architects also have urged the school board to consider other options.

"Tearing it down and replacing it with a parking lot is a travesty of the significant contribution that Paul Rudolph has made to your community," writes Vivian Salaga, president of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects, in an Apr. 13 letter to Todd.

"Riverview's significance warrants finding an alternative use for the building and not relegating it to demolition for the construction of a parking lot."

The online version of Preservation has excellent stories about preservation news and issues.