A Walter Netsch–designed library is under threat as plans move forward for a much-anticipated, community-backed bayfront development in Sarasota, Florida. On Thursday, September 6, the city’s planning board voted 3-2 to approve phase 1 of The Bay project, a 53-acre recreational and cultural complex which indirectly calls for the demolition of the old Selby Public Library building. According to Sarasota Vice-Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, zero consideration was given to the fate of the 30,000-square-foot structure despite other historic buildings being saved on site. “My biggest issue with this is that the proper process isn’t being taken to determine the library’s future,” she said. “Why is the first step of creating this legacy project destroying a former legacy project?” The Selby Public Library, designed under Netsch's lead at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1976, sits on an underutilized waterfront plot that’s been eyed for large-scale development for over a decade. The building, now known as the G.Wiz Science Museum, has been empty for six years and costs the city $40,000 annually to maintain. Ahearn-Koch and other G.Wiz advocates claimed that leading up to an early September special planning meeting, neither the city nor the public had been officially notified of the decision to take the building down. She also said the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO), which is spearheading the effort, did not provide sufficient evidence for the $10.5-million cost the group estimated that it would take to rehabilitate the 42-year-old structure. The SBPO only provided a presentation with pictures of the proposal, which did not include the G.Wiz building. “Before you talk about why you can’t save a building and repurpose it, you have to discuss the historical and cultural value of it and then figure out how much it will cost,” Ahearn-Koch said. Following the SBPO’s presentation, locals took over the two-hour comment period citing concerns over G.Wiz. According to Ahearn-Koch, the city received countless emails calling for its preservation, but the SBPO team claimed they never received any pleas to save it prior to the meeting. Now the group says it will welcome ideas on how to reuse the building as part of The Bay. Sarasota boasts a rich architectural legacy and a burgeoning development scene that often gets overshadowed by mega-projects nearby in Miami. The Sarasota School of Architecture includes an incredible roster of modernist buildings by architects such as Paul Rudolph, William Rupp, Mark Hampton, and Ralph Twitchell. According to Vassar College Professor of Art Nick Adams, Netsch’s Selby Public Library, while not widely known compared to Netch's other projects, is a pure demonstration of "field theory," the late architect’s approach to designing architecture around unique geometries suited to the program and environment. “It’s not a building that’s very well-covered in Netsch literature,” said Adams. “But it’s quite ingenious how the shapes of the building have a residence within the location that’s very attractive. There aren’t very many field theory buildings that are still active in their original function. I do hope before they swing the wrecking ball that the city does a proper recording of what was there and what changes were done.” Local architect Dale Parks completed an award-winning retrofit of the library in 2000, transforming it into G.Wiz and adding a soaring glass atrium to Netsch’s design. Parks believes his work didn’t inherently warp the SOM building’s original character. As an expert on the structure, he outright denies any claims that it did. “We tried to respect SOM’s construction as much as possible, and I know it would be quite easy to restore it,” Parks said. “Whatever repurpose it may have in the future, it’s definitely not going to be a library because the layout doesn’t pertain to future use. But the outside of the building is still there.” The top arguments for taking down the building are that it doesn’t stand up to current FEMA standards and would need to be significantly elevated, and that the city is spending too much money on its upkeep as tenants have shied away from staking claim to it over the past several years. Commissioner Hagen Brody, who voted yes to approve phase 1 of The Bay in favor of demolishing G.Wiz, recognizes its importance but believes removing it from the site will serve a greater good. “The community overwhelmingly wanted green space, not buildings or redevelopment on that site,” he said. "With all of that, the choice was pretty clear. A vote against moving forward with phase 1 would have sent the whole project back to the drawing board after years of public input and would have seriously jeopardized the entire effort as well as fundraising. I believe these are tough decisions, but it’s a positive change for Sarasota and that’s the definition of progress.” The initial build out of The Bay, led by a nearly all-female team from Boston-based planning firm Sasaki, would turn 10 acres of the site’s southern portion into a new public park by 2020. After being selected for the project last October, the team has worked with the SBPO and held an exhaustive community engagement process to shape the final master plan, first revealed in May and updated Friday. Susannah Ross, Gina Ford, and Christine Dunn conceived a grand park and cultural community less than a mile away from Sarasota’s beloved Boulevard of the Arts. One of the structures on the site, the lavender-colored Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall designed by Taliesin Associated Architects in 1969, is included in Sasaki’s latest renderings, only after a major public outcry occurred over its absence in the initial images. Christopher Wilson, president of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, said the specific reuse of Van Wezel isn’t clear, but it’s more or less saved. “Saving Van Wezel and not G.Wiz makes no sense,” Wilson said. “From the beginning, this building has not gotten the proper attention that it should. The excuse that it’s in the floodplain and not up to FEMA standards is not a reason to demolish it. The city is throwing around the $10 million number prematurely with incomplete evidence.” Wilson also noted there are five other aging structures on site that have been deemed part of Sarasota’s cultural zone: the Municipal Auditorium (1938), Chidsey Library (1941), Arts Center Sarasota (1949), the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce (1956), and the Garden Club of Sarasota (1959). These buildings will remain during the construction of The Bay. In a letter sent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune last weekend, Eric Keune, design director at SOM Chicago, provided a list of five ways G.Wiz could be adapted for reuse, including making it an open-air pavilion, a co-working space, or a satellite studio for the University of Florida architecture program. The Architect’s Newspaper was sent a copy of the text, though it has yet to be published. In his argument, Keune wrote that though the structure today is undoubtedly not the Selby Public Library, he believes the building, along with Netsch’s original vision, is still inside it and “only needs to be (re) discovered.” Vice-Mayor Ahearn-Koch feels the same way. For her, this fight is personal and she thinks people need to act fast, as Keune did, if they have ideas. "All too often in this city we do demolition by neglect and this is a perfect example of that," she said. "This is such a stunning building. I remember going to the big stack as a student, checking out a book and going off into one of the side nooks to read. I still feel this can be a very useful building for the future of Sarasota. Our arts community, including our architecture, is who we are, and I just don't see the logic in destroying it." Sarasota's Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously to recommend the SBPO and city commission find a new tenant for G.Wiz, pursue alternative renovation plans, as well as host more community workshops as phase 1 plans move forward. This is the third time in two years the advisory group has advocated for the building.
Posts tagged with "Sarasota Architectural Foundation":
Judith Chafee began her career rubbing elbows with some of the most significant architects of the twentieth century. Her education at Yale University under Paul Rudolphcame at a momentous time when the best of a generation gathered in New Haven to debate the future of architecture. While thriving in this competitive environment, Chafee established herself in the Northeast and practiced for a decade with Walter Gropius, Sarah Harkness and Ben Thompson at the Architects Collaborative, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo at Eero Saarinen and Associates, Edward Larrabee Barnes and the Office of Paul Rudolph. Recognition immediately followed her early design projects including a Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome with Charles Eames and Diane Lewis in residence. Her inaugural independent project landed on the front of Architectural Record— the first Record House Award cover by a woman architect. In 1970, Chafee returned to Tucson, Arizona and began a private practice that combined an interest in the Sonoran Desert landscape of her childhood, endemic building techniques and the experimental outlook that she embraced during her internship on the East Coast. Within the first decade of practice, she became celebrated for finely tuned buildings, situated with care in iconic desert landscapes. These houses bring form to priorities that are now widely embodied by the sustainability community and mindful designers worldwide. A close study of Judith Chafee’s early training and built work provides a unique understanding of making architecture that is both regional and far-reaching— an architecture that leverages limitations to stimulate an identity. Christopher Domin is an architect and educator at the University of Arizona and lectures internationally on the topic of regional modernism and technological innovation. Professor Domin is a co-author of the book Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, published by Princeton Architectural Press.
“American Modern Architecture: Frame + Character in Hitchcock’s Cinematic Spaces.” A visually-rich presentation focusing on Hitchcock's penchant for filming suspenseful chase scenes, heart-stopping moments and romantic interludes against the backdrop of American modernist architecture. Synopsis: With few exceptions, buildings played a pivotal role in each of Alfred Hitchcock’s works. The popularization of Modernism after World War II, however, provided the director with a range of stunning design masterpieces and everyday environments needed to highlight the tension and balance unique to his cinematic storytelling. For Hitchcock, modern buildings visually and metaphorically presented the future in contrast with the past, in an era in which the public struggled to embrace the brave new world of the Space Age, Civil Rights, and the Cold War, and sought respite in a series of suspenseful thrillers at the cinema. The modern structures in Hitchcock’s films—including buildings featured in Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo--are not reduced to mere set pieces, but often functioned as fully-developed characters in the story. Indeed, in American Modernism Hitchcock discovered and established long-standing film archetypes such as the villain’s lair, utilizing architectural transparency and cliff-side cantilevering to represent the clear yet dangerous vision of protagonist Philip Vandamm and the precarious future of the hero. Vandamm’s purely fictional home, featured in North by Northwest, is reminiscent of the late-period organic modernism popularized by master architect Frank Lloyd Wright. With the precedent set, later movie villains took up residence in actual modernist structures designed by architects John Lautner and Richard Neutra, both successful apprentices of Wright. In many of his films, Hitchcock also utilized modernism’s essential elements—seen in buildings such as the utopian United Nations Headquarters and the steel-and-glass Harrison and Abramovitz-designed 1957 Commercial Investment Trust Building, both in New York City--as cultural shorthand to convey society’s views on anonymity and one’s place in increasingly complex urban environments. Whether set at the downtrodden Bates Motel—representing the end of an era—or within the gleaming valleys of Manhattan, Hitchcock skillfully crafted narrative spaces utilizing the form and symbolism of modern architecture. Christine Madrid French, an advocate for the study and preservation of American architecture,was born and raised in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Utah in Architectural Studies and worked for the National Park Service as an historian in Washington, D.C. Ms. French earned a master's degree in Architectural History from the University of Virginia and worked as the Director of the Modernism Program for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in San Francisco. She is an Expert Member on the 20th-Century Heritage Committee for the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and teaches at the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Florida.
Though best known for his Sarasota houses and monumental concrete institutional buildings, beginning in 1965 Paul Rudolph designed many innovative, NYC residences with fantastic qualities that have received little attention. Always experimenting and fascinated by lighting, Rudolph achieved otherworldly effects using elements scavenged from the city’s restaurant and manufacturing supply stores along Canal Street. These interiors also reveal Rudolph’s awareness of the New York avant-garde’s work, such as the infinity chambers of Yayoi Kusama. Inspired by New York, Rudolph successfully transformed himself at mid-career in the 1960s into an interior architect who could transport himself and his clients into other dimensions using just mirrors and plexiglass. Timothy M. Rohan is associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities, his research focuses upon architecture and design from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Rohan has written articles for both scholarly and popular publications such as The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Art in America, and The Boston Globe, as well for edited volumes. He is the author of The Architecture of Paul Rudolph (Yale, 2014), the first monograph about the postwar architect. Rohan has also edited Reassessing Rudolph (Yale, 2017), a volume of scholarly articles about Rudolph and is currently working on a new book about late twentieth-century Manhattan residential interiors
It's no Palace of Versailles, but the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) has reproduced Paul Rudolph's 1952 Walker Guest House on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art. Using Rudolph's plans and Ezra Stoller's interior photographs, the foundation commissioned a faithful replica, down to the magazines on the coffee table. The replica will cost SAF approximately $150,000. It will be faithful to the original, minus the bathroom, which will be supplanted by a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The house will welcome visitors starting November 6th, part of opening festivities for SAF's SarasotaMOD Weekend. The original Walker Guest House is a 24-foot-by-24-foot foot structure constructed from "off the shelf" materials for the Walker family on Sanibel Island, off the Gulf Coast. The house still stands. Why build a replica? As SAF board member Dan Snyder explained, unlike other cities tearing Rudolph's architecture down, Sarasota is a "city that loves Rudolph." The Walker Guest House is privately owned, and Sanibel Island is only accessible via boat. The Ringling has 250,000 annual visitors, so having the replica house on its grounds will introduce Rudolph's work, and the Sarasota School of Architecture, to a wider audience. Indigenous to Florida's west coast, the Sarasota School melded the international style with the organic school of Frank Lloyd Wright while responding to the demands of a subtropical climate. The Walker Guest house, Snyder noted, "blurs the distinction between inside and outside, stealing space from the outside so the house seems much larger." The house is calibrated to respond to the seasons. Its three, eight-foot-by-eight-foot panels are flanked by retractable exterior shades that shield the house from excessive summer sun, but allow light to penetrate in the winter, when the temperature drops into the 60s. Its exoskeleton functions as a wraparound porch and a support system for the pulleys, weighted with red concrete balls, that control the shades. Members of the SAF visited the original house to document the interior and exterior for the replica project. To many, "1950s Florida" means tacky pastels and a flock of lawn flamingos. In contrast (or perhaps in protest), Rudolph's interior color palette is subdued grey to "draw [your] eye to the outside," Snyder explained. Referencing Stoller's photographs, the Rudolph-designed coffee table, dining table, bookcase, and sofa were reproduced. Queens-based furniture designer Richard Wrightman was commissioned to recreate the living room's officer's chairs. Adhering strictly to their standards of authenticity, the team purchased Time, Fortune, and Playboy magazines from 1953, and placed them as they appear in Stoller's images. A parallel exhibition, Paul Rudolph: The Guest Houses, at the Ringling features photographs, models, drawings, and writings. The exhibition runs through December 6th.
Why is Paul Rudolph—like much of Brutalism—so unloved by officialdom? His Orange County Government in Goshen, New York has been under threat of demolition by local government for several years. Now an elegant canopy the architect designed and built in 196o for Sarasota High School in Florida may also end up in a local landfill. Rudolph designed the elongated covering to connect the School with a new addition he designed behind it’s main brick building. The addition is undergoing a thorough renovation and the main building is being taken over by the Ringling College of Art & Design to become a midtown exhibition space. The Ringling wants to renovate the old school and argued that the canopy sits in the way of construction workers and materials entering the building. Ringling College claimed: "We are removing...only the area necessary to continue renovation of the historic Sarasota High School building. We also believe, but do not have final corroboration, that the section we are taking down is also not part of the original Paul Rudolph design but was added on later." But now several groups from Sarasota Architectural Foundation and Docomomo are asking the Ringling to hold off on the demolition. They are also asking the public to contact Larry Thompson (941-359-7601 or 941-365-7603), president of The Ringling College of Art & Design, and ask him to save the Rudolph canopies and incorporate them into the permanent collection of the new museum.
The style of architecture known as "mid-century modern" is a cousin to the "International style." A popular combination of European stylistic tendencies and domestic American influences, including furniture design, it has become an influential catch all term for distinguished post-World War II structures and commercial tract homes (like the Eichler Homes). While the style has become widely popular in lifestyle magazines like Dwell and even replicated in new suburban developments, the original homes are being regularly torn down and being replaced with bloated McMansions that have shoe closets the size of the former mid-century living rooms. But the style has a huge following and a number of organizations to highlight and preserve is monuments. Docomomo has been in the lead highlighting these structures and Palm Springs was one of the first city to host a "modernism week." The latest city to create a week of activities devoted to the style is Sarasota, Florida, which along with Palm Springs and New Canaan, Connecticut, were experimental centers of the style. The Florida city also had a gifted number of architects working in the style: Paul Rudolph and his early mentor Ralph Twitchell, Gene Leedy, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, and Carl Abbott. The four day event of lectures, city and house tours that took place this fall was a model of how a community can highlight its unique but disappearing history. The week was created the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (founded by Martie Lieberman, a realtor who specializes in the style of homes) which is trying to promote the city's modern architecture. It hopes to raise awareness of the style so its buildings can be preserved, updated, and even become a model of a future architecture that is more responsive to needs and demands than the typical McMansion. Sarasota prides itself on its modern history and was a unique crossroads of culture, commerce, and environment after World War II that helped birth this style. The week also highlighted the fascinating figure of Philip Hiss III who moved to the beach community in 1948 and became a major figure in the community. He was chair of its education department (which commissioned Paul Rudolph to design two high schools) and a developer of the modernist community Lido Shores. The Foundation is hoping to make their week an annual affair and the area has the modern assets to make it work.
In 1948, Paul Rudolph was residing at the American Academy in Rome. He had traveled there to study classical architecture, but was instead spending his days designing modern houses for Sarasota, Florida. In fact, Sarasota, according to Timothy Rohan who has recently published a monograph on Rudolph, made a huge impression on the architect and defined his work for the rest of his career. He had moved there to apprentice and work for the local architect Ralph Twitchell, who in the 1940s helped create a style of modern house that eventually became known as the Sarasota school. The sleepy seaside village had become like Palm Springs, California and New Canaan, Connecticut—a laboratory of modernism—because, as Rohan explains, its "cultured winter time residents were open to architectural experimentation in their second homes." From October 9–12, 2014, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, will be staging “SarasotaMOD Week[end],” a four-day celebration of the region’s iconic mid-20th-century architecture, particularly its oceanside houses and famous public schools. Leading architects, designers, historians, and authors like Carl Abbott, John Howey, Joe King (co-author of Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses), Lawrence Scarpa, Tim Seibert, landscape architect Raymond Jungles, and author, critic, and filmmaker Alastair Gordon will explore the ongoing impact of this movement through presentations, panel discussions and tours. For more information and to register for the weekend, click here.