Thursday, January 04, 2007

More on the Metropolis Film

The Pelican Press has a report this week about the film being produced by Metropolis Magazine concerning the planned demolition of Rudolph's Riverview High buildings:

Film will be seen around the country
Magazine making documentary on Rudolph buildings


An internationally known magazine that focuses on architecture and design is producing a documentary on the historic Paul Rudolph buildings at Riverview High School in Sarasota, which are scheduled to be demolished to make way for new facilities set to open for the 2009-2010 school year.

Susan S. Szenasy, editor of Metropolis magazine, told the Pelican Press that she had learned about the saga of the Rudolph buildings while she was researching historic architecture on the Internet.

In her commentary for the November issue of the magazine, which is based in New York City, Szenasy wrote of the primary Rudolph structure at Riverview, "Its breakthrough features, such as an ingenious system of cross-ventilation, concrete sunshades, and daylighting, have been subverted through decades of 'modernizing.'

In fact the Rudolph design is now barely recognizable. But, the old school's advocates say, the wounds can be healed and the building brought back to teach a vital lesson of connections between people, architecture, and nature."

She added in the article, "These days the precedents established at Riverview, as well as other regional Modern buildings in the county, offer helpful lessons to current practitioners who are challenged to find new ways to save energy and realign their buildings with the natural world. Rudolph's experimental architecture can pass on what he learned about observing climate (subtropical), terrain (the building was sited to blend in with the surrounding pines), and culture (progressive Modern buildings represented the aspirations of the county as a center for the arts)."

The plan for the documentary, Szenasy told the Pelican, "is to take it around to large architects' offices and public meetings about architecture and planning." She added, "I have commitments to take it around the country. ... [People] are really interested in this."

She hopes to bring the film to Sarasota, as well.

The documentary crew arrived in Sarasota on Nov. 28 and completed its work on Dec. 3, Szenasy said. The magazine had secured permission from the Sarasota County School District to film at Riverview, said Sheila Weiss, supervisor of communications and public relations.

Interviews were conducted with numerous people, Szenasy said, including representatives of BMK Architects of Sarasota, which designed the new high school.

Among others interviewed were architect Carl Abbott, former Mayor Mollie Cardamone and former school board chairman Lee Byron, all of Sarasota. They are members of a group called Save Riverview, which is committed to finding a way to preserve the Rudolph structures at the high school.

Abbott and two other members of the group - including Mark Smith, incoming president of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects - most recently addressed the school board during public comments at the Nov. 21 meeting.

Editing of the film is to start by the end of the year and be completed in February or early March, Szenasy added. While she understands that members of the public have expressed concerns about the age of the main Rudolph building at the school, Szenasy said, "If we think that way [about other structures], then we might as well blow up our world and get the hell out of here. ... Old buildings have a lot of significance to us."

She found the main Rudolph structure at Riverview to be "so incredibly powerful and beautiful," though its state of disrepair, she added, was "really demoralizing and depressing."

Asked how it happened that Metropolis, a magazine, chose to take on a film project, Szenasy pointed out, "Magazines do all kinds of things these days. ... We're in the business of disseminating information." Film, she added, is "a natural progression."

Returning to the topic of the Rudolph building itself, Szenasy pointed out that "sustainable building" - designing and erecting structures that can endure over a long period of time - has become very important. "We have to talk about those issues in an open forum ... and create a public dialogue."

Szenasy ended her November column by asking, "Can we afford to lose Rudolph's legacy?"

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