With so much of our focus on the potential demise of Paul Rudolph's Orange Country Government Center, in Goshen, there hasn't been much conversation on the threat to another Rudolph landmark, his Sarasota High School of 1960. This is Rudolph's most important public commission in Florida, and a clear precursor to the landmark public commissions in the years following. Like so many Rudolph buildings, it presents a dramatic face forward, with a broad stepped entry leading into a double-height atrium open to the elements. The term "heroic," which some of us are hoping will displace "brutalist," for this aesthetic, certainly fits. A wonderful canopy of stepped, interlocking concrete T's protects students from Sarasota's frequent showers. The school was conceived on a campus plan, with a separate gym building and a classroom extension across an open quad.
You may recall that Sarasota's school board, four years ago, demolished Rudolph's Riverview High School, a lamentable decision to say the very least. The plan for SHS is not total demolition, though Rudolph's gymnasium will be destroyed (the board claims, dubiously, that it can't be repurposed). The plan, instead, is to reorient the entire campus, and to transform Rudolph's double-height entry atrium into an enclosed media center. While it's nice to know that the school board isn't planning for the wholesale demolition of the building, this tranformation, among others to the complex, would utterly compromise the Rudolph's vision and the work itself. Preservationists and local architects are coming to the defense of the buildings under the aegis of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation.
There are better alternatives. For starters, transforming Rudolph's gym into the desired media center. The SAF is leading the campaign to demand the School Board and Harvard Jolly Architects, chosen to undertake the renovation, respect Sarasota's patrimony, and rethink their plans for the building. I encourage you to visit the SAF website, for futher information on the building, its future, and what you can do to help protect it. But start by spreading the word.
A few images of SHS, and a couple of other Rudolph projects in Sarasota, in the following slideshow.