Sunday, June 25, 2006

World Renowned Architect: SAVE Riverview

Article published in the SHT Jun 24, 2006
by Harold Bubil

Lord Foster weighs in on Riverview

The short list of the world's greatest architects would have to include Norman Foster. Based in London, he is among the most decorated people in his profession, and has done so much for Britain that he has been knighted by the queen and made a lord.

The Pritzker Prize-winning architect's works include the Millennium Bridge in London, Hong Kong's huge airport and the rehabilitation of the Reichstag in Berlin. Our Real Estate section on Sunday will include a feature on the new Hearst Tower by Foster and Partners, his 700-person, 18-office firm.

So when a letter by Lord Foster crosses my desk, it merits close attention and consideration. This one is dated June 21 and addressed to the Sarasota County School Board, two days after that panel voted 5-0 to tear down and replace Riverview High School's existing buildings:"I am writing to lend my support of the campaign to preserve Riverview High School from the impending threat of destruction," the letter says.

"Designed by Paul Rudolph, undoubtedly one of the great American architects of the second half of the twentieth century, it is a building that has served as an inspiration not only for me, but for generations of architects."

Despite its present state of disrepair, the underlying structure of this strikingly innovative building is sound. It could easily be restored to its original condition and brought back to life as a focal point for the expanding school campus. As even BMK Architects' report into the school has indicated, the 'rehabilitation' of the Rudolph buildings should be incorporated into the future planning of the Riverview site. This point is supported by the fact that modern building technologies allow us now, more easily than ever, to adapt older structures to modern use."

For many of us, growing up in the 1950s, the glass and steel buildings of the Modern Movement embodied a sense of optimism and liberation. Latterly, however, some people have come to revile these buildings as much as we revered them. But we should remember that such perceptions change with time, and we should not allow the vagaries of architectural taste to threaten the future of a building of undoubted architectural quality."

The extent to which we, as a society, can identify our best architectural works, and then work to preserve, adapt and maintain them, seems to me an index of our ability to forever improve our physical environment."I would therefore strongly encourage the School Board of Florida's Sarasota County to re-examine their decision to demolish this wonderful, iconic building and instead to make every effort to preserve it."

It should be noted that Foster is a friend and former college classmate and colleague of Carl Abbott, the Sarasota architect who has been leading the effort to save Riverview.

About 30 years ago, Abbott took Foster to Riverview during the latter's visit to Sarasota.

Critics of the building, including parents and teachers who have spoken out about its current deplorable condition, will argue that Foster has never had to teach classes in the building or deal with the rust, water stains and mold.

But when an architect of his stature says such a building can and should be saved, his opinion should be given careful study before the demolition company is called in.


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Stivel Velasquez said...

The Riverview Committee is soliciting design ideas to restore the famed Paul Rudolph buildings at Riverview High and create a unique parking deck for the campus. If no proposal is found by March 2008, the School Board will tear down the buildings. Riverview High march madness School in Sarasota, FL was designed by Paul Rudolph, world renowned architect. The building is threatened with demolition as the Sarasota School Board looks at options for updating the Riverview campus. It is hoped that by publicizing the potential destruction of the significant building a way can be found to save it.