SHS canopy still standing; SAF plans rally for Thursday


D-day for the Paul Rudolph-designed covered walkway at Sarasota High School came and went, and the “canopy” is still standing.

The Sarasota Architectural Foundation was told a prominent portion of the canopy would be demolished Wednesday, but no work was done. Two workers on a cherry-picker hoist worked briefly on a third-floor window above the south entrance to the old brick building, which once was Sarasota High and now is being converted into the Sarasota Museum of Art.

shs canopy

That is where the canopy, designed around 1960 by Paul Rudolph, terminates as it connects the 1927 “old building” to the 55-year-old, and recently restored, SHS addition, also designed by Rudolph.

The Sarasota Architectural Foundation wants Dr. Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, to delay demolition “for a few days” while options can be explored. SMOA is owned by Ringling College of Art + Design.

SAF will hold a protest rally from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot adjacent to the SHS/SMOA building.

“Let’s talk solutions, not demolition!” stated the SAF’s announcement. “Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunblock and water . . . and your ideas!”

Thompson was invited to the rally, and instead has offered to meet with SAF leaders and Scott Lempe, deputy superintendent of Sarasota County Schools, at the site early Thursday morning.

The canopy was built to provide shelter for students as they walked from one building to the other. The covered walkway may have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s more ornate “esplanades” at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Rudolph is known to have visited that campus on multiple occasions early in his career, in the 1940s.

Rudolph started his career in Sarasota and designed a number of important midcentury modern houses in addition to Riverview High School and the SHS addition, which marked his debut into a style of architecture known as “Brutalism” for its use of raw concrete (beton brut in French). He went on to become dean of Yale’s architecture school, beginning that job as SHS’s addition was under construction, and designed a number of government and educational buildings in the northeast before falling out of favor in America.

He finished his career designing prominent highrises in Southeast Asia, and died at age 78 in New York City in 1997.

The demolition of Rudolph’s Riverview High School in 2009 followed years of intense community debate. As a concession to SAF, the Sarasota County School Board promised to appropriately rehabilitate Rudolph’s addition to Sarasota High, including the gymnasium, which it has undertaken. “Building 4,” a classroom building traditionally known as the “new building” in the SHS community, was completed in January.

The school system is undecided as to what to do with the canopy on land it fully controls. But Ringling College/SMOA, which has a 99-year lease with the school system at $1 a year, wants to demolish the portion of the canopy nearest to the SMOA building so that renovation work can proceed unimpeded.

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: March 25, 2015
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