Covered walkway at SHS set to be demolished despite SAF protest


The Sarasota Architectural Foundation, which led the effort to save Sarasota High School's landmark Building 4 from demolition, has appealed to Sarasota County Schools to not demolish the covered walkway that connects the Paul Rudolph-designed campus addition to the original brick building constructed in 1927.

shs walkway2

The Paul Rudolph-designed walkway that connects the 1927 old building, now Sarasota Museum of Art, to the Rudolph-designed 1960 new building. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 2013.

But the school district says it no longer needs the walkway, because most of it stands outside the new west boundary of the campus.

District deputy superintendent Scott Lempe also said that Sarasota Museum of Art, a branch of Ringling College of Art + Design, doesn't want the walkway and wants it demolished.

The SAF has contacted both Ringling College President Larry Thompson and SMOA President Wendy Surkis in an attempt to pursuade them to keep the "canopies."

"We don't have an interest in keeping the walkway covers," wrote Lempe in an email to SAF board member Elliott Himelfarb. "They are in ill-repair and will be outside the security perimeter of the school, so (they) will have no utility once the renovation is complete."

In an interview with the Herald-Tribune today, SAF board member Dan Snyder said SAF supporter and noted architect Carl Abbott visited the walkway earlier this week and found it to be in good repair.

This photo taken Jan. 28, 2010 shows a student studying under the Esplanades covered walkways, which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,  that total one and a half miles of the campus at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla.  The Florida Southern College campus is home to the world's largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.(AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)

A student studies under the Esplanades, a network of  covered walkways designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The Florida Southern College campus is home to the world's largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.(AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)

The walkway was designed by Rudolph to provide cover to students as they walked from the "old" building to the "new" building, which opened in 1960. Many observers feel Rudolph was inspired by the "Esplanades" designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College in the late 1930s.

"The covered walkways were part of the original Rudolph design concept for his addition to SHS, 1960," Snyder wrote in an email to the Herald-Tribune.

The SAF has a photograph dated Feb. 9, 1960, showing the walkways in place.

"The School Board, although they demolished the interior of Rudolph's classroom building (No. 4), are doing a great job 'restoring' the exterior of the addition," wrote Snyder.

Work on the National Register of Historic Places building is underway and should be complete by the end of the year.

"It will be Sarasota's most important piece of mid-century architecture, and one of the most important in the country."

Snyder added that the covered walkway is "an integral part of Rudolph's 'total' concept."

"That's a real shame to lose those canopies," said Joe King, co-author of 'Paul Rudolph, The Florida Houses.' Yes, it makes a visual and physical link, and it defines space, as both an edge, and an axis. And just carries that rhythm, pattern against the sky."

Wrote Snyder, "The canopies are an important asset for SMOA -- they provide a visual and physical link from the new museum to one of the most important mid-century buildings in the country. Visitors to the museum would be able to walk down the walkways and see the iconic Rudolph Addition to SHS.

"Seems incongruous that we are creating a museum to hold, protect and display art and at the same time are destroying a very important piece of art, the walkways, a piece that is unique to Sarasota and an important part of our architectural tourism."

Snyder and the SAF believe the key to saving the covered walkway is for Thompson to tell the school board that he wants the walkway to stay.

"Saving the canopies would make the School Board's efforts to preserve the exterior of the Addition a first-class project," Snyder wrote. "Without the canopies, their efforts will be forever damaged, and Sarasota's architectural legacy will, once again, be weakened by a public agency."

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: September 5, 2014
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