Bubil: Seeing a challenge at Sarasota High School


It takes an expert to be able to look at a set of architectural drawings and understand the challenges presented by a certain project.

In this case, the certain project is the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation, if you will, of Sarasota High School's building No. 4, and the expert is architect Greg Hall, who is building a reputation as Sarasota's leading preservation architect of the current generation.

In December, the eloquent, scholarly Hall sent me a letter in which he expressed the importance of saving the "inside-outside" nature of Building 4, which was designed in 1958 by Paul Rudolph and is being retained on the site plan for a renovated and updated Sarasota High campus.

The building has been at the center of a controversy because, at first, design staff for the Sarasota County School Board proposed glassing-in the building's two iconic breezeways and tearing down the Rudolph-designed gym.

Reminded by the architectural community that the School Board had agreed to "appropriately rehabilitate" the Rudolph additions to the campus to make up for the demolition of Rudolph's Riverview High School in 2009, the school district held a design charrette last summer. The plan approved by all saved the breezeways and the gym.

What was not addressed was the interior of the building, and as I wrote in a Herald-Tribune article on Feb. 9, the architectural community was upset that the interior of the building was being "gutted."

Schools COO Scott Lempe has explained on many occasions that saving the building and the breezeways meant that a complete rebuild of Building 4's center-section interior would be necessary to accommodate "21st century" educational spaces.

That is where the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, including Hall, said that you can't save the building and remove its heart and the same time.

County Commission chairman Carolyn Mason said as much in a letter to the School Board dated Feb. 13.

But not so fast, says Hall. Recently he got to spend a hour or so studying the current plans, drawn by Harvard Jolly Architecture, for the building's interior, and he is qualifying his earlier statements.

"I was critical because I didn't know all the parts and pieces they are trying to fit in there," said Hall. "I realize it is a very difficult challenge for them.

"Am I stepping back from it? In a way, because I am being more conciliatory toward the School Board staff for the challenges they have," Hall said on Thursday. "The best thing for the building is to keep it a school, which is what they are doing, with 21st-century learning and school safety.

"As far as the building, looking beyond those other issues, it would be great to save the inside-outside space and keep the open breezeway.

"I just question now whether all of those things are ultimately going to be able to be accomplished."



Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: February 16, 2013
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