23 June 2008

Paul Rudolph's Buildings Seem to be a Favorite for Demolition

In the dubious competition to see which modern architect's buildings get torn down, Paul Rudolph seems to be leading. A couple of years ago his Micheels House, in Westport, Connecticut, fell after an excruciating couple of weeks during which the new owner did the best he could to give himself a bad name. Then a year ago, a beach house he designed in Rhode Island went down too (everything I wrote about Rudolph on my other blog is here, if you want the unpleasant details).

And now the Times is reporting that a school he designed in Sarasota, Florida, is probably going to be razed as well. Here's how the story starts:

Of the many Modernist buildings Paul Rudolph designed in Sarasota, Fla., his stomping ground in the 1940s and ’50s, Riverview High School is among the most influential.

Not only is it a classic example of his early Sarasota style, with clean, horizontal planes; natural lighting; and inventive sunshades to cool the interiors, but it has also housed tens of thousands of students who have been schooled there in the last half-century.

This week the Sarasota County School Board cleared the way for the demolition of the building at the end of the 2008-9 school year. The board voted 3 to 2 not to proceed with a restoration proposed by preservationists that would turn the school, built in 1958, into a music conservatory.

There's a lot of back and forth in the story between proponents and opponents of demolition, and a lot of rationalization by the proponents, but to me it seems as if they made up their minds to get rid of the school some time ago and they don't want to be bothered considering other arguments or alternatives. (Coincidentally, the school our daughter goes to was designed by the architects who designed our house; the school was recently renovated extensively and any traces of the original Moore & Hutchins design was obliterated, which raised nobody's ire around here, if anyone even knew: the original school had served its usefulness and it was time for a new one.)

As the first sentence of the Times story says, Rudolph worked a lot in Sarasota and the town's architectural style became known as the Sarasota School (not to be confused with the Sarasota school that's going to be torn down). A few years ago Fred Bernstein wrote a good feature in the Times about Sarasota's moderns; you can read it here. -- ta

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