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Six firms remain in the running to design the SPAC

Four European and two U.S.-based architecture firms are semifinalists for the job of designing the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center. The candidates will be narrowed to three in May.

Alice Tully Hall rendering by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Alice Tully Hall rendering by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
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Four Europe-based architecture firms are among the six semifinalist selected by the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation’s Architect Selection Task Force. 

The narrowing of the field from 18 culled from 43 responding to a request for qualifications by the task force comes on the heels of the announcement of a $10 million contribution from the Paul Seed Fund at KBF CANADA to support the architect and design team in building the project.

The six finalists include American firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York City and Gehry Partners of Los Angeles. The Europe-based firms are Foster + Partners Limited of London; Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy; Snohetta of Oslo, Norway; and Henning Larsen of Copenhagen, Denmark.

All six are regarded as global firms, many with multiple locations, and each with a portfolio that includes performing arts facilities. 

"Our rigorous review process for selecting the architect for the new performing arts center is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to position Sarasota as a top-tier arts destination,” said Jenne Britell, SPAC Foundation vice chair who also serves as chair of the Task Force, in a news release. “With the narrowing of our candidate pool, we are getting closer to accomplishing our vision for a world-class facility that will be a hub for creativity and innovation.”

The next step in the task force’s work is to narrow the field to three finalists. That will require each member to make site visits to one project each by the semifinalists. The finalists are scheduled to be selected at its May 12 meeting, after which each will be invited to Sarasota for in-person interviews and community engagement.

Because the task force is subject to Florida Sunshine laws regarding government meetings, none of its members may make site visits together. 

The architect selection process began in October with the first of six public task force meetings. Funded through an appropriation from the state of Florida, the meetings have been held to discuss applicants’ qualifications and submissions.

Specifications for the SPAC include a 2,100-seat main hall, a 300-seat flexible performance space and a total of 165,000 square feet of building utilizing inside and outside education, event and rooftop spaces. The project, to be built on the opposite corner of the parking lot from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, is projected to cost approximately $275 million. 

It will be funded in part by a tax increment financing (TIF) district surrounding The Bay, the city’s 53-acre bayfront park between Boulevard of the Arts and 10th Street along North Tamiami Trail. The TIF captures 95% of any increases in property tax revenue within the district above the baseline year of 2019, and expires in 2049. The balance is to be funded by grants and private contributions. 

Located within The Bay, which is being redeveloped under the auspices of the Bay Park Conservancy, the SPAC is a separate entity operated by the SPAC Foundation. Like the Van Wezel, the new SPAC will be owned by the city. TIF funds apply redevelopment of the entire property, including the SPAC.

The TIF district covers much of the downtown area ripe for redevelopment north of Fruitville Road. 

The six

Hanoi Opera House rendering by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Firm: Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Headquarters: Genoa, Italy

About: Contrary to what its name might imply, the firm does not build pianos, rather is led by founder Renzo Piano, established in 1981 with offices in Genoa and Paris, France. It can provide full architectural design services and consultancy services prior to and during the construction phase. Its work also includes interior design, town planning and urban design, landscape and exhibition design services. The practice permanently employs about 120 architects together with support staff including 3D visualization artists and model makers. It has completed more than 140 projects around the world. 

Image: Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi, Vietnam

Alice Tully Hall rendering by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Firm: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Headquarters: New York City

About: Founded in 1981, Diller Scofidio + Renfro spans architecture, urban design, installation art, multi-media performance, digital media and print. With a focus on cultural and civic projects, DS+R’s work addresses the changing role of institutions and the future of cities. It received the first grant awarded in the field of architecture from the MacArthur Foundation, which called it, “Architects who have created an alternative form of architectural practice that unites design, performance, and electronic media with cultural and architectural theory and criticism. Their work explores how space functions in our culture and illustrates that architecture, when understood as the physical manifestation of social relationships, is everywhere, not just in buildings.”

Image: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City

PGA Tour Global Headquarters rendering by Foster + Partners.

Firm: Foster + Partners Limited

Headquarters: London, England

About: Foster + Partners is a global studio for sustainable architecture, urbanism, engineering and design, founded by Norman Foster in 1967. With offices around the world, sustainability is at the heart of its design approach. It audits projects against global standards as well as its own. To build sustainably requires holistic design, with each project beginning with fresh thinking, leading to innovative solutions that are tailor-made to site, user and climate.

Image: PGA Tour Global Headquarters, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry Partners.

Firm: Gehry Partners

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

About: Gehry Partners brings broad international experience in academic, commercial, museum, performance and residential projects. Established in 1962, it employs a large number of senior architects with extensive experience in the technical development of building systems and construction documents, and who are highly qualified in the management of complex projects, all designed personally by founder Frank Gehry. The firm relies on the use of Digital Project, a sophisticated modeling program originally created for use by the aerospace industry, to thoroughly document designs and to rationalize the bidding, fabrication and construction process.

Image: Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Shanghai Grand Opera House by Snohetta.

Firm: Snohetta

Headquarters: Oslo, Norway

About: Snohetta began as a collaborative architectural and landscape workshop, and has remained true to its trans-disciplinary way of thinking since inception. It strives to enhance our sense of surroundings, identity and relationship to others and the surrounding physical spaces. Snohetta has grown to become an internationally renowned practice of architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, product, graphic, digital design and art. A global firm, it has offices in Paris, France, Innsbruck, Austria, New York City, Hong Kong, Adelaide, Australia, and San Francisco. 

Image: Shanghai Grand Opera House, Shanghai, China

Copenhagen Concert Hall by Henning Larson.

Firm: Henning Larsen

Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark

About: Henning Larsen is an international studio for architecture, landscape and urbanism whose design philosophy centers on the play of light and nature. It strives to bring joy to those who occupy the spaces by shaping the conditions for human interaction. Often described as the “master of light,” the firm was founded in 1959 by its namesake, who led the firm for more than 50 years, designing a vast array of works of architecture in Denmark and abroad.

Image: Copenhagen Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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