Rudolph building finally has real hope for rescue
A year and a half ago, we would have laid better than even odds that the original Paul Rudolph structure at Riverview High School ultimately would face the wrecking ball. Now this community has before it a clear vision for the building's rescue and resurrection.
Fortunately both the conservationists fighting to save this fine example of the Sarasota School of Architecture and the Sarasota County School Board members were able to push beyond their almost childlike petulance in debating its future and work toward common ground. They managed to pave the way for what we find is a magnificent means of saving a piece of history while making Sarasota's cultural star shine even more brightly.
The intervention of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in holding a "charrette" last March to ponder just how the Rudolph building could be saved was invaluable in this process. As a result, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation was able to fund and hold a competition seeking a viable future for the structure. That competition produced a proposal for a Music Quadrangle that would build upon Riverview's much-deserved reputation as a Music Demonstration School in this state.
The SAF will have until March 15 to prove that the Music Quadrangle is more than just a designer's dream, but given architect Diane Lewis' passion for her proposal, we truly believe it can become a reality.
Speak to Lewis for just a few minutes and you will know not only that she is absolutely committed to saving the Rudolph building and restoring it to its former luster but that she wants to use her many resources to expand on just the type of activity that the Itzhak Perlman Music Program has become for Sarasota. She wants to see other world-class musicians as artists in residence working with young people on the Riverview campus, and musical programs open to the public to showcase internationally known stars and the next generation who will be following in their footsteps.
When the school board met with Lewis and SAF epresentatives on Dec. 11, we heard a lot of concerns raised about the work that will have to be done - with the new school already under way - to make the Music Quadrangle fit on the redeveloped campus. Yet, we also heard Diane Lewis say those obstacles are in no way insurmountable.
Of course, the final act in this process belongs to the school board. Come March, its five members will decide once and for all whether Paul Rudolph's original vision for Riverview High will be burnished in a new use or left only as a memory in the pages of architectural students' textbooks.
If Diane Lewis and the SAF fulfill their part of the bargain, as we believe they will, then it should be very easy for the school board to give them their blessings to proceed.
In the Sarasota Herald Tribune there is a podcast of the Herald Tribune's real estate editor, Harold Bubil, interview with Diane Lewis. It is titled:
The case for Rudolph's Riverview
Architect Diane Lewis explains her team's proposal for the reuse of the Paul Rudolph-designed building at Riverview High School. The world is watching, she says.