The Canopy Accord: Compromise reached on canopy at SMOA


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After days of deliberation and at-times spirited negotiation, Ringling College/Sarasota Museum of Art and the Sarasota Architectural Foundation announced a compromise Tuesday regarding the fate of a covered walkway at Sarasota High School.

Under the agreement, about 30 feet of canopy that blocks access to space between the brick schoolhouse, Building 41, and Sarasota High’s Building 42 will be removed. This will provide access to the rear of Building 41 for construction trucks, and, after SMOA opens, caterers, loading operations and emergency vehicles.

The westernmost 77 feet, closest to U.S. 41, will remain standing. The SMOA plan originally called for demolishing about 108 feet.

The walkway was designed by noted modernist architect Paul Rudolph in 1960 to connect Sarasota High’s collegiate gothic brick building to Rudolph’s 1960 addition 500 feet to the east.

“We retained the essence of the Rudolph canopy,” Ringling president Larry Thompson said at an afternoon press conference on the site. “We will keep this major part that is next to the old historic high school to be a remembrance of Paul Rudolph, and be the south face of this brand-new museum.”

Since the canopy was built, truck access to the building was from the north. But the renovation to Building 41, known as the “old building” after Rudolph’s addition was completed, calls for construction of an addition that includes a large elevator, and would significantly narrow the distance between SMOA and Building 42.

“A bunch of us met and put our creative hats on and thought about different ways of solving the problem that we have about access to the rear of the building,” Thompson said. “I am excited that we were able to come together and work out a viable, creative design solution for preservation.”

“The solution will distinguish the Sarasota community, Ringling College and the museum,” SAF board member Dan Snyder said.

In the age of social media, reaction from elsewhere was almost immediate.

“Congratulations to Ringling College, SMOA, Dr. Thompson, Carl, Dan, Janet and all the great folks at SAF for demonstrating vision for past, present and future art by integrating Paul Rudolph’s building into the new Sarasota Museum of Art,” wrote influential architect Lawrence Scarpa of Los Angeles in an email.

Thompson noted that the college has hosted several events held by SAF and other architecture groups, and anticipated further collaborations. “We already have a very good relationship. This was just a major hiccup,” he said.

“We are thrilled,” SAF president Janet Minker said. “Speaking for all Rudolph fans, we are so happy to preserve this important piece of architecture.”

Sarasota architect Carl Abbott, who was a student of Rudolph at the Yale University architecture school in the early 1960s, was joined by the SAF in pushing for preservation of as much of the covered walkway as possible.

Abbott praised Thompson’s “deep-rooted regard and respect for our creative community, and his willingness to listen to our concerns.”

The architect said SAF did not fully understand the challenge faced by Ringling College until a meeting Friday with representatives of Willis Miller Construction, which is renovating SMOA.

“You have to have fire-truck access. We did not know that until Friday morning,” Abbott said. “This is the perfect way — it has worked out for everybody.”

The Sarasota County School Board is undecided as to what to do with the canopy on land it fully controls. Ringling College has a 99-year lease with the district at $1 a year for the SMOA property.

Also Tuesday, the stick sculpture “Out in Front” was removed from the SMOA front yard along U.S. 41 as renovation of the brick building into the Sarasota Museum of Art continues. Thompson said it was intended to be a temporary exhibit that would be removed when building construction was underway.

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: April 1, 2015
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