Sunday, January 14, 2007

Riverview Demolition Nominated for National Trust's Most Endangered List

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has a story today about our group's application to nominate the planned Riverview demolition to the National Trust's 11 Most Endangered List for 2007. It is currently on the Florida Trust's Endangered List.

Article published Jan 14, 2007


SARASOTA -- Local architects are trying to dub Riverview High school one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2007," a designation that carries no legal punch but packs a mean public awareness campaign.

In the 20-year history of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's famed listing, only two of the chosen endangered places were ever demolished: the Mapes Hotel in Reno, Nev., where stars including Tony Bennett performed, and the Madison Lenox Hotel in Detroit, one of the downtown area's original turn-of-the-century buildings.

The Riverview application, filed this week by the head of the state's largest architectural association, came with letters of support from industry leaders from New Jersey to Michigan, each making the case why the Sarasota County School Board should reverse its decision to demolish the school.

"Hopefully it will show the local folks in charge of this thing that they've made the wrong decision," said Mark Smith, a Siesta Key architect and member of the Save Riverview committee.

About 70 to 100 apply for status each year, according to the trust. Winners will be announced May 15.

The movement to save the school is picking up national support.

World-famous urban planner Andres Duany called the demolition plans "barbaric" at a City Hall meeting a few days ago.

But the national attention might not be enough to spare the buildings designed by modernist architect Paul Rudolph, who is considered one of the most talented members of the Sarasota architecture movement of the 1950s, and whose reputation in recent years has been revived.

One of his designs, the architecture school at Yale, even appears on a postage stamp.

School officials say, despite the attention, they'll hold fast to plans to tear down and rebuild by 2010.

The Proctor Street lot is too small to preserve the glass-and-steel Rudolph buildings and still build something suitable for the 21st century, they say.

They're thinking hurricane-proof, high-tech, secure, cost-efficient. They want parking spots.

When the Rudolph buildings come down, pavement will be laid in their place.

"Students first, taxpayers second and architectural design third," said School Board member Caroline Zucker.

The application to the historic trust is the latest turn in the growing war between school leaders and local preservationists since the School Board voted last fall to tear down the school.

After hearing from members of the Save Riverview committee, who believe there is a cost-efficient way to renovate the Rudolph buildings and still build a new school, the Sarasota County government decided to investigate whether there was a code prohibiting destruction of the 58-year-old campus.

School officials are planning to meet with county officials one-on-one this week to share the deteriorating condition of Riverview, from the mold to the dark classrooms, and reasons why restoring the Rudolph buildings won't work.

Several school officials said they worried the national attention might further delay the Riverview rebuild.

"It's frustrating," said Principal Linda Nook. "I'm worried about anything that could halt this."

The school district plans to restore a smaller Rudolph building on the Sarasota High campus, said Superintendent Gary Norris.

And the district is committed to including Rudolph-inspired touches at the new Riverview, such as staircases that seem to float and steel beams.

For some, that will never be enough.

"You know what the world thinks of your tearing down Riverview?" Duany said before a packed City Commission chambers last week. "It doesn't matter how many concerts you have and how many art museums you have. You will be considered forever barbarians if you take it down."

The crowd cheered.


Sunny D (Group Manager) said...

As one of the members of Riverview's "Founding Five" Classes, I decry the way the School Board seems to be so hell-bent on destroying the historic Rudolph buildings. There has to be a cost-effective way to repair them while at the same modernizing the parts of the Campus that need upgrading (building a bigger Gym, for example).
I spent 24 years in the Navy, during which I was fortunate to visit Rome, Florence, Paris, Cairo, Jerusalem, and other old world cities where the people celebrate and respect their historic landmarks. It's a shame so many Americans don't share that attitude.
Richard Sundstrom (RHS '61)

Anonymous said...

I bet nobody that wants to save Riverview High School has children that attend it! This leaking, moldy, cracked school that leaks raw sewage into childrens lockers needs to go! Come on! What are you really trying to save? This school has been reconstructed so many times it barely resembles the original. Why should Sarasota County Taxpayers continue to pay for this white elephant? Bye, bye Riverview and good riddance!