Following is an excellent article recently published in Sarasota's Pelican Press:
Superintendent sees new Riverview design as homage to Rudolph
Group argues again for rehabilitation
BY RACHEL BROWN HACKNEY
Some people may feel the design BMK Architects of Sarasota has created for the new Riverview High School is an homage to the historic Paul Rudolph buildings on campus, which are recognized worldwide as examples of the Sarasota School of Architecture.
Others maintain that, homage or not, the Sarasota County School Board should be reconsidering preserving the primary Rudolph building, because rising construction costs make rehabilitation far more reasonable.
Darrell McLain, president of BMK, told the Pelican Press in an interview, "We're not trying to model our design after (the Rudolph) building at all." Still, he said, every effort will be made to enhance the views students will have of the central courtyard around which the new buildings will be erected and to allow as much daylight as possible into the school. The new Riverview High is set to be completed by the start of the 2009-2010 school year.
The design includes a lot of glass in the cafeteria, the media center and the stairways, McLain added. "You want [it] to feel open … [and be able to] see daylight, see some sun, some trees."
After viewing the design for the first time on Oct. 6, Superintendent Gary Norris told the Pelican, "I think the architects are trying to pay homage" to Rudolph, with extensive use of steel and "quite a bit of use of glass."
Approximately 50 percent of the primary Rudolph building on campus is glass, McLain said. The Florida Department of Education requires that 5 percent of any new school structure be glass, he added; his firm didn't want to use a higher percentage because all that glass has to be hurricane resistant.
McLain pointed out that the new high school will be a hurricane shelter capable of handling between 2,500 and 3,000 people.
When contacted about the design, former Sarasota Mayor Mollie Cardamone, a member of the group that wants to save the Rudolph structures, told the Pelican, "I think that the new cost figures put the school board in a position of reusing the Rudolph buildings." She added that it was "foolish to spend so much money" on a design "that may have some of the glass and light fixtures" when the historic building could be "cleaned up and dressed up" to remain part of the school.
During an Oct. 10 work session, the school board learned the new school could end up costing $135 million - $40 million more than the previous estimate the board had seen.
Norris reminded the board members that the earlier figure covered construction only. The latest figure, he said, included the $5 million in design fees as well as the expenses for furniture and new technology. The cost per square foot for school construction had risen from $165 in January to $227, Norris noted in an interview."
You'll never make me believe that the steel and concrete and glass in those old buildings should be turned into rubble for a parking lot," Cardamone told the Pelican.
Sarasota's Lee Byron, member of the Save Riverview Committee and former school board member, said in an interview she found it sad that the current board members "really didn't get the information they needed" in making a determination about the costs of new structures in comparison with rehabilitating the old ones.
Sarasota architect Carl Abbott had found numerous errors in a document provided to the board in June by a consultant who had analyzed the various designs for an updated Riverview High, Byron pointed out.
The Save Riverview Committee issued a formal statement to the Pelican. It began, "In response to your report that Dr. Norris called the new Riverview High School design an 'homage to Paul Rudolph' we must regretfully term his remark an insult to the intelligence of our community."
The Sarasota School of Architecture marked a high point in the cultural history of the Sarasota area and is recognized throughout the world as a key element in the development of modern American architecture. As such, the buildings created by Rudolph and his colleagues are studied and appreciated everywhere. The buildings proposed for the Riverview site are in no way related to the vision expressed by Paul Rudolph - a vision of light and air, of our relationship to nature, of the joy of learning in the modern world."
The statement concluded, "We have heard that Dr. Norris has suggested placing a plaque 'honoring' Paul Rudolph in the lobby of the new school. To do so would be analogous to placing a statue of Frank Lloyd Wright in the parking lot of a new Wal-Mart to replace the Guggenheim Museum."
"When preserving [the Rudolph building] could also save money," Byron said, "I don't know how [the school board member] won't consider this again." She added, "I just don't think the board is aware of the outcry that will happen when the bulldozers come in to tear [the main Rudolph building] down."
Mollie Cardamone, Lee Byron and Carl Abbott are all members of the SAVE Riverview Committee.