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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015 3 years ago

Canopy Compromise

Ringling College of Art and Design and the Sarasota Architectural Foundation reach agreement to preserve the Paul Rudolph Walkway Canopy
by: Nick Reichert Arts & Entertainment Editor

Just like the Paul Rudolph Walkway Canopy bridges the physical divide between the Historic Sarasota High School and the current Sarasota High School, so too have the Ringling College of Art and Design and Sarasota Architectural Foundation bridged their initial divide over the said canopy's fate.

According to the three organizations (Ringling College, SMOA and SAF), whose representatives met this afternoon outside of the school for a public press conference, the canopy will be architecturally preserved. A 31-foot section of the white, modern canopy near the Historic Sarasota High School will be removed so as to allow the conservation and remodelling of the high school to continue as it is transformed into Ringling College's Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA.

The new entry point will allow firetruck access as well as needed catering and maintenance access once the museum opens. This 31-foot segment will not inlcude the canopy's beginning portion that is parallel to the historic high school's southern side. Saving and maintaining this beginning portion of the canopy will allow Rudolph's architectural vision and aesthetic to be maintained while providing enough space for SMOA's practical use of the building.

This beginning portion of the Paul Rudolph canopy will be maintained and resorted and serve as a functional part of the future Sarasota Museum of Art

"We're pleased to announce this creative design solution of the Paul Rudolph canopy as it relates to our redaptive re-use of the building," says Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design. "We put our creative hats on and have reached a compromise allowing access to the building for further construction, fire safety and other uses into the building. We'll keep the major front part of the canopy in remembrance of Paul Rudolph." 

Designed by influential American architect Paul Rudolph, a portion of  immediately surrounding the perimeter was scheduled to be demolished by Ringling College in order to make room for construction crews and their equipment to manuever and work on the building's southern and eastern facades and interior. Willis A. Smith Construction was scheduled to tear down any obtrusive section on Wednesday, March 25. However, due to the diligent and passionate response of the Sarasota Architectrual Foundation and Paul Rudolph fans and admirers, which included letters, phone calls, social media sharing and even a protest rally on March 26, Ringling College and SMOA halted any moves on the canopy until an agreeable consensus was reached by all interested parties. 

This portion that stands in front of the eastern access point of the building will be removed.

"We met on Thursday morning and we got the whole picture," says Carl Abbott, architect and one of Rudolph's students. "We're pleased that this works out for everybody. Rudolph's canopy will serve as a functional covered drop-off point for future visitors of the musuem. Rudolph is not just important to Sarasota, but he's one of the most important architect educators ever. Sarasota is a mecca for Paul Rudolph's work and designs and his students and his influence can be seen all over the world."

Now with the the future of the canopy decided, the contested section of the canopy will be removed so construction will continue. According to Thompson, since deliberations occurred so quickly, the scheduled opening of SMOA will not be delayed. Thompson also added that the now available space will allow for construction of a freight elevator to transport art to the seperate floors of the buildings, provide access points for firetrucks, and be a thoroughfare for catering and art transportation between the main museum building and Building 42 of the Sarasota High School campus, which Ringling College aims to acquire from the school board at a future date. 

Dan Snyder, board member of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, and Carl Abbott, architect and original Paul Rudolph student applaud the cooperation of the two organizations.

These construction developments and functional additions to SMOA will appear as time goes on toward the college's projected first quarter of 2016 opening date. But for now, Ringling College, SMOA and SAF have resolved their immediate differences and have not only restored their longstanding amiable relationship but saved a functional and historic architectural landmark in the process.

"I'm not sure there are many communities in the country that would come to together to save a Rudolph as quickly as we did," says Dan Snyder, board member of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation.

Nick Reichert writes about Sarasota fine arts, including theater, dance, opera, music and visual art. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2013. Follow @TheNickReichert on Twitter for regular updates.

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