Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Can We Save Riverview?

This week's editorial in the Pelican Press.

For history’s sake, Riverview must be saved

Plans to raze the old Paul Rudolph-designed Riverview High School in favor of new buildings have met with serious resistance from the community.

And with good reason.

Those of us who’ve lived here for some time have seen many such buildings – often sharing Riverview’s Sarasota School of Architecture connection – destroyed in the name of “progress.” It seems, especially lately, when some semblance of historical relevance – art, some call it – is on the left side of the scale and “progress” – money, some call it – is on the right, you can bet dollars to cornerstones the scale will lean starboard.

It’s time to put our feet down on the port side. And it may already be too late.

Long ago, before most of the Sarasota School of Architecture homes and buildings were razed and replaced with sun-blocking, view-swallowing monstrosities, Sarasota looked as though it was truly making a name for itself in the annals of modern architecture. The Sarasota School, as it was called, had gained proponents worldwide, and many of its design elements are still being used today in a wide variety of architectural applications.

Riverview High School is one of the few remaining tangible connections to that past – to what Sarasota could have been if the almighty dollar hadn’t supplanted art; if greed hadn’t eclipsed our sense of history, our sense of place.

This community should have enjoyed a lasting, living legacy with its Sarasota School of Architecture. Instead, the School and what it represented are rapidly becoming relics of the past. And remaining structures designed and built in this style are becoming rare as dinosaur bones.

The school district has already paid approximately $1.2 million for an in-depth facilities assessment by the firm 3D/International, or 3DI. Unfortunately – and this is really where they misstepped – the Paul Rudolph-designed structures were left out of the assessment because they were intended to be razed, no discussion necessary. This, despite a 2004 memorandum to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gary Norris from BMK Architects overviewing its extensive 2002 Long-Range Facilities Review on Riverview High School, which stated: “Plan on replacing all existing buildings on campus ... with the exception of the original Rudolph buildings, which should be rehabilitated.”

Because of this short-sightedness (which often leads to historical structures being destroyed), the school board agreed to pay an additional $30,000 to have the buildings added into the 3DI study after the fact (which includes travel expenses for consultants to do the work that should have been done initially). The school board was scheduled to hear the revised report on June 13.

Regardless of the results – so long as the buildings are not deemed unsafe and beyond repair – every effort should be made to save the Paul Rudolph-designed structures and incorporate them in a forward-thinking manner into the layout, look and feel of the new school.

Then, former and present Riverview staff and alumni would really have something to be proud of, something much more than another paint-by-the-numbers school.

No comments: