Canopy demolition delayed for two days


SARASOTA — The disputed section of covered walkway at Sarasota High’s old building will stand for at least two more days.

Following a 45-minute, closed-door meeting Thursday morning, the Sarasota Architectural Foundation and Ringling College President Dr. Larry Thompson reached an agreement regarding the fate of the 1960 covered walkway at the old school.

“Ringling College of Art and Design President Dr. Larry Thompson met with Carl Abbott and leadership of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation this morning onsite at SMOA,” said a statement from Ringling College. “The decision was made by Dr. Thompson to delay canopy removal for two days. Architects and contractors for SMOA and SAF will meet during this period to explore potential solutions to determine whether the canopy can be preserved.”

Ringling College is renovating the 1927 brick collegiate gothic building as the Sarasota Museum of Art after a $22.5 million fundraising campaign. Thompson has said about 60 feet of the canopy needs to be removed to facilitate construction.

Preservationists suggest a section could be removed and then reinstalled after the building is complete.

SAF board members pressed for the meeting with Thompson, saying they only wanted to delay demolition for a few days while options could be explored. Thompson agreed to an 8:15 a.m. meeting; it continued until 9.

SAF members would not comment as they left the meeting, which was held in Willis Smith Construction’s trailer on the north side of the building.

At 11:45 a.m., Ringling released its statement.

During a noon rally at the site, SAF’s president, Janet Minker, told some 50 SAF members and supporters: “I don’t think there is another community in the entire world that could show the support you have, for preserving midcentury architecture . . . all within a few hours’ notice. Thank goodness for social media!

“Your insights, observations and recollections have impacted us all, and have truly made a difference.”

SAF’s effort to prevent demolition of the Paul Rudolph-designed “canopy” generated coverage in newspapers and on local television, and debate on social media.

Rudolph, an acclaimed practitioner of modernist architecture from the late 1940s until his death in 1997, designed the walkway to connect Sarasota High’s “old building” to the addition he designed in 1958. Known to generations of students and faculty as “the new building,” that structure is now labeled “Building 4” by the school system.

The old building is now “Building 41,” as it faces the Tamiami Trail. Ringling College has leased it from the School Board for 99 years at $1 a year.

Forristall Enterprises is gutting the interior, removing plaster walls and old flooring to take the building down to its shell and studs. This will give Willis Smith a clean canvas for the conversion of the building from closed classrooms to open gallery space.

The interior demolition should take another month. Lead paint has already been removed.

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 27, 2015
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