SHS SOS Letters

February and March 2013: Many letters have been written to the Sarasota County School Board members and to the editor of the Herald Tribune, about why it’s important to preserve and not destroy the last remaining Paul Rudolph school in Florida. Here are just a few. Thank you National Trust for Historic Preservation; Sarasota County Commissioners; Historical Society of Sarasota County; The Sarasota Alliance For Historic Preservation; Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy; William Hartman, Sarasota High School class of 1965; Anne Dart Yanes, Sarasota High School class of 1959; Alexandra Dart, Pine View High School class of 2005; Madison Touchton, Sarasota High School class of 2016; Darren Touchton; Michael Bille; Shawn Glen Pierson, architect; Joyce Owens, architect; Dwight E. Holmes, architect; Greg Hall, architect; Bill Stokes, realtor; Rafik Accad, architectural design instructor; Tom Luzier, attorney; John Schaub; Deborah G. Dart, SAF Board Member; and Elliott Himelfarb, SAF Board Member.

Letter to the Editor, Sarasota Herald Tribune, March 19, 2013
National Trust Backs Saving Sarasota High

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to help people save the places that matter to them, supports the preservation of the Paul Rudolph buildings on the campus of Sarasota High School.

The National Trust is a leading advocate for the appreciation and preservation of Modern structures, in Sarasota and around the nation. Like the original Riverview High School in Sarasota, Building No. 4 at Sarasota High represents the Sarasota School of Architecture, whose practitioners became internationally known and respected.

This is a legacy all residents of Sarasota should embrace. It would be a tragedy if Sarasota became known for the demolition and insensitive renovation of its Modern structures, rather than as one of the birthplaces of the Modern movement.

The School Board’s concern to create an innovative learning environment in Building No. 4 is admirable, but to create it by the insensitive renovation of a Modern building seems shortsighted. The building itself should be a part of the learning experience in a space that embraces the contemporary world, both in the classes taught and the building that houses them.

John Hildreth
Vice President for Eastern Field Services
National Trust for Historic Preservation

Dear Ms. Goodwin,

On behalf of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (FLWBC), a national organization devoted to preserving the built work of Frank Lloyd Wright and enhancing the public understanding of the Wright legacy, we write to urge in the strongest possible terms, the preservation of the Paul Rudolph buildings in the Sarasota High School complex. We recently brought a national group of 80 Wright scholars, architects, Wright homeowners and other members to visit the campus of Florida Southern College, the largest concentrated collection of Wright buildings in one site. Equally impressive and appreciated was our visit to just a handful of unique Sarasota School of Architecture residences. We were especially interested in seeing the Rudolph addition to Sarasota High School, particularly after the unfortunate 2009 loss of Riverview High School.

We saw a grand entry and corridor spaces that deserve to be restored and utilized in a way that honors the open, airy and light-filled environment within a muscular structure as originally created by Rudolph .

We urge the school board, the county and the city to take steps to invest in a solution that respects this internationally renowned work and encourages students and their teachers to value the distinguished environment that is a background for their educational activities. The Rudolph addition is a cultural asset to be celebrated and links directly to Sarasota’s highly deserved reputation as a mecca of architectural modernism. Leadership and foresight now to embrace and safeguard this very significant example of the modern movement in architecture is essential.
Larry Woodin
Janet Halstead
Executive Director
Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy

Dear Ms. Goodwin,

It has come to the attention of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that the School Board of Sarasota County is planning a major renovation of Sarasota High School’s Building NO.4. As you may know, the National Trust has been deeply involved in the effort to save Modern structures in Sarasota and around the nation, including Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High.

We were pleased when the School Board agreed to “appropriately rehabilitate” the Rudolph structure, Building No.4 on the Sarasota High School campus. However, the proposed plans as we understand them, do not follow generally accepted parameters for sensitive rehabilitation of a historic building. One important guide with wide acceptance is the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The Secretary’s Standards are an excellent guide even when a project is not funded by the federal government and the owner is not applying for tax credits.

Building No.4 represents the Sarasota School of Architecture, which is significant far beyond Sarasota. Many of the Sarasota School architects, such as Paul Rudolph, are world renowned. The Sarasota School pioneered the use of local materials that suit the climate, a concept many embrace today.

We support your efforts to create a modern learning environment in Building No.4, and believe that a sensitive rehabilitation can provide such an environment. The building itself can be a part of your students’ learning experience. I urge you to work with the Sarasota Architecture Foundation and other interested parties to help create a space that embraces the modern world, both in the classes taught and the building that houses them.

Thank you for your consideration. If I can be of any assistance, please contact me.

John Hildreth,
Vice President for Eastern Field Services
National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation Asks For Appropriate Rehabilitation of Paul Rudolph Addition
Dear Ms. Goodwin,
We are very concerned with the current plans for Sarasota High School’s Paul Rudolph Addition, specifically, the demolition of Building no. 4’s common areas. The loss of the floating walkway, linear light wells, steel door frames and other character-defining elements will forever alter Paul Rudolph’s last remaining public building in Florida. As stewards of this unique, historic structure, you have the responsibility to honor the School Board’s 2007 stipulation to appropriately rehabilitate the Rudolph Addition.

On behalf of the board of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, we ask the School Board to direct Harvard Jolly Architecture to redesign the common areas of Building no. 4 with proper respect for the entire structure. Now is the time to do the right thing. Thank you for your consideration.

Very Sincerely,
Helena Karabatsos, President
Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation

Historic Hometown Gem
After reading the response from Sarasota School Board members in Wednesday’s front page article “Controversial High School Renovations Will Go On,” I was compelled to weigh in. My father was a school board member in St. Louis County for nearly 20-years.  He took his elected, yet unpaid job very seriously. And he always carefully listened to both sides of an issue, rather than reflexively placing the blame on those “appalling” critics.

This monumental disagreement, with its potential historical impact, is backed not only by the prestigious Sarasota Architectural Foundation but also by the likes of our Sarasota County Commissioners.  Is that what gets school board members so angry? Being questioned, and yes, even scolded for refusing to consider a compromise over destroying key elements of this historic hometown gem? When a publicly elected body simply turns it back on constructive, informed input, (as one board member abruptly put it, “…this conversation is over with”), it’s time to look in the mirror and recognize who the real bullies are.

Bob Thill
Sarasota, FL

Paul Rudolph’s Building 4, Sarasota High School
Dear Superintendent White,

There is certainly a lot of controversy regarding the current plan to ‘gut’ Rudolph’s iconic ‘building 4’ at Sarasota High School.  I just wanted you to know that not every student at SHS is determined to allow the gutting of Rudolph’s work.  My daughter, Madison Touchton, a freshman at SHS and herself a member of both AICE and MaST is an aspiring engineer and architect.  She has been influenced greatly by the iconic buildings and structures of the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and our very own Paul Rudolph.  Madison recently wrote to you and the rest of the Board members in a heartfelt appeal to reconsider the plan for building 4.  Her question, and mine, is why is it that building 4 has to house the new MaST labs?  Is there no other option?  Is there no other space existing or proposed on campus that could be built-out to house the ‘21st century learning environment’ that will be the MaST labs?  Or is this just an opportune wedge to arouse public sentiment?  As the father of four I can certainly attest to the need for and wish to provide the best possible situation and tools for our kids to learn.  But they also need a sense of history.

If in any other city, this building would still be iconic and treasured by those that appreciate architecture and its historical influence on our past and future; however, in this city it stands for so much more.  As I understand the plan, building 4 will again become the grand entrance to the SHS campus.  Is there not a way to move more of Administration and non-learning activities to this building that would not require the gutting that is necessary for the current plan?  This building could be a showcase for SHS and continue to draw attention to this school and this city as a center for art and architecture.  I know that as my daughter looks into her future as an architect, her heart and enthusiasm is dampened by what she now knows will someday happen to her creations.  You can only image da Vinci’s reaction to finding his Mona Lisa cut from the frame and replaced with a mirror, to allow more function for the frame it hangs in.  Yes, a bit ridiculous though really no different than the plans for building 4.

I don’t know that you have read my daughter’s thoughts on the matter so I’m including the text of her recent email to you and the Board.  She feels she stands alone at SHS.  In opposition to general sentiment from her teachers and the rest of her fellow MaST students, all of whose intentions are fueled by the Boards plan that they can only be provided their promised labs by the gutting of this iconic building.

Thank you for your time, my daughter’s plea follows.

Darren Touchton
Proud Parent of SHS student
Sarasota, FL

Dear School Board Members,
I am a freshman in the AICE program and MaST Research Institute at Sarasota High. My career plan is to be an architect. I am a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and the modern style of architecture. I’ve heard people say that Paul Rudolph “isn’t Frank Lloyd Wright, so why does it matter?” No, he’s no Frank Lloyd Wright; he’s Paul Rudolph, infamous in his own right. Sarasota is where it all started, the Sarasota School of Architecture, influencing architecture worldwide. It’s architects like Paul Rudolph and Frank Lloyd Wright that inspired me to be an architect. It would be a shame if one of such an infamous architect’s creations were destroyed.

I know that everyone in the MaST program wants to have 21st century labs, which under the current plan would involve the gutting of the interior and leaving only the exterior of Building 4. Why can’t we have both? To my knowledge, there were only four schools designed in the world by Paul Rudolph. Two of those were in Sarasota, the birthplace of one of the greatest movements of architecture in the world. Riverview is already demolished, Sarasota High is at risk, and of the remaining two (New York) one is threatened to become a parking lot and the other has been renovated, not restored.

Money has been found for other schools in Sarasota, so why can’t it be found for one of the oldest existing high schools in Sarasota, and one of the last remaining Paul Rudolph schools, not only in Sarasota but in the world? Why can’t the School Board find the funds to rehabilitate Building 4 AND give MaST the labs we were promised? Or why do the labs have to be in Building 4? There’re plenty of other buildings on the Sarasota High campus, so why can’t the labs go in one if the other buildings?

Regarding Building 4, I feel the building should be restored to its original state, inside and out, the way Paul Rudolph designed it. We’ve already lost Riverview, but once Building 4 is gone, it’s gone. It’s not like he’s going to be building any more. I believe that protecting Paul Rudolph’s buildings in Sarasota, the city that inspired the movement, will continue to inspire architects for generations to come. I know that we need labs for MaST; however, in my heart … I am an architect.

Madison Touchton
Freshman, AICE, MaST, Sarasota High School Class of 2016
Sarasota, FL

Dear Ms. Goodwin,
The Historical Society of Sarasota County supports the objections which have been raised to the current plans to renovate the Paul Rudolph Addition to Sarasota High School.

The School Board previously signed an agreement with the Sarasota County Commissioners that it would appropriately rehabilitate the Rudolph Addition, as a condition of being allowed to demolish the Rudolph-designed Riverview High School. We urge the School Board to live up to that agreement.

The Rudolph Addition, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the only remaining public building in Florida designed by Rudolph, the co-founder of the Sarasota School of Architecture.  Appropriate rehabilitation will allow the building to continue to serve our community as a place of learning and an example of modern architecture.  However, maintenance of the exterior of the building alone is not sufficient to achieve those goals.  Demolition of the common areas of Building No. 4 – the floating walkway, linear light wells, steel door frames and other character-defining elements – will destroy the substance of Rudolph’s achievement.

We ask the School Board to direct Harvard Jolly Architecture to redesign the common areas of Building No. 4 with proper respect for the entire structure.  Please save this historic structure for the benefit of future generations while we still have the opportunity to do so. Thank you.

Howard Rosenthal, President
Historical Society of Sarasota County

Sarasota County School Board chair and members,
While I deeply appreciate your combined commitment to educating our children, an endeavor that I have also engaged upon by my participation in the creation of Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences, and also your commitment to preserving the SHS Rudolph classroom addition, it distresses me that there does not appear to be an appreciation on your part of what exactly this building means to Sarasota.
The Rudolph addition is without question the most important act of architecture, or art, created in Sarasota, at this time it is our only internationally recognized building.
What claim do we have to be an art loving community if we savage it’s guts? By what right do we instruct our children in the arts if we eviscerate our greatest achievement?

The Rudolph SHS building was created by your predecessors in a period of extraordinary enlightenment as to the role that art and fine architecture could play in the development of our youth, and yet, we’ve witnessed years of pedestrian school buildings erected since that time.

Let’s save in it’s entirety a building which is both an internationally recognized masterpiece of architecture and a monument to a period in Sarasota’s history when our school boards goals transcended the pedestrian.

With utmost regard,
Bill Hartman
Sarasota, FL

Letter to the Editor

I’ve been practicing architecture for over fifty years primarily focusing on the design of over 150 schools in eleven Florida school districts.

The majority of historically significant architecture embraces not just the façade, or exterior of a building, but rather the building in its totality, both exterior and interior. Imagine a visitor to St. Peter’s in Rome, enters the Basilica and finds that the interior had been filled in and made into three floors of office space to house the affairs of the Vatican. The structure would look the same from the outside, but it wouldn’t bear any resemblance to the original on the inside, nor would it function as it had been originally designed.

The Paul Rudolph addition at Sarasota High School is not only significant from the outside, but perhaps of greater importance is the manner in which the two story classroom building is organized with the open clerestory that provides natural light and ventilation to the two story corridor system and to the classrooms. If a new school were built today utilizing these same design concepts, it would be acclaimed as a “breakthrough” in environmentally “sustainable” design.

Certainly there must be educational  program areas at some other location on this campus that could be appropriately relocated and fitted into these spaces as they were originally designed without need to destroy this this Nationally recognized Historic Structure. Preserve a number of “classrooms” in their original configuration as opposed to converting the structure into something entirely different.

Dwight E Holmes, FAIA
Indian Shores, FL

Letter to the Editor

They always say “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

The Sarasota School Board is about to prove this with their plans to demolish the common areas of the historic Paul Rudolph addition at Sarasota High School. This will forever alter the iconic architect’s last remaining public building in Florida.

Responsible local governments all across the country are going out of their way to protect significantly historical homes, buildings and landmarks. Sarasota should be one of them.

Imagine visiting the Lincoln Memorial and finding it encased in a glass air-conditioned box to make visitors more “comfortable”. Imagine visiting the great cathedrals of Europe only to find inside modern track lighting and altars of gleaming stainless steel to make them more “relevant” to today’s worshipers. Absurd, but similar to what is being proposed in Sarasota.

We bought a home on Siesta Key eight years ago because we loved the area’s beaches, cultural attractions and strong, modern architectural heritage. Paul Rudolph is a founding figure in the field of modern architecture. His work began here and he’s recognized internationally.

As stewards of this unique, historic structure, the school board has the responsibility to honor the 2007 stipulation in which they agreed to appropriately rehabilitate the Rudolph Addition. Please direct your architects to redesign the common areas of Building no. 4 with proper respect for the entire structure. History will prove you right.

Michael Bille and Lois Greenbaum
Siesta Key, FL

Dear Madame Chair and Members of the Sarasota County School Board,

As an undergraduate, I attended the Catholic University School of Engineering and Architecture. CUA’s architectural education program was modeled after the École des Beaux Arts design curriculum in Paris (as opposed to the Bauhaus school that equally influenced the architecture program at Harvard).

Two of my professors had attended the Yale School of Architecture, one of America’s leading Beaux Arts curriculum.

When I recently visited my alma mater to participate in an anniversary event,
I encountered both of my Yale-educated professors, who had each also worked for their professor and dean, Paul Rudolph, in their early careers.

At the event, I told my professors that I had relocated to Sarasota.
Their response: “What a shame that they demolished Riverside High School”.

In that response, you may understand the term “they” to refer to “you”.

I urge you not to repeat (indeed compound) the previous mistakes of the School Board regarding Sarasota’s most identifiable and architecturally significant historic resources.

The first award that I received in my professional career was for Historic Preservation, a field that was a subspecialty in my early years in the practice of architecture.

In my career, I also specialized in the design of educational buildings for a firm designing schools for over sixty years, in Washington DC and in over a dozen counties in Maryland.

Coming to Sarasota in 2008, I was shocked at the lack of a meaningful historic preservation presence here, even though Sarasota is home to one of the country’s finest examples of regional American modern architecture, and in a relatively coherent and readily identifiable collection of prime examples.

Perhaps THE finest example of a masterwork of the Sarasota School of Architecture is Paul Rudolph’s Sarasota High School Addition.

In my professional view, it is sadly ironic that the Sarasota School Board is celebrating neither the Sarasota School of Architecture nor it’s star Sarasota High School Addition in the current plans for the renovation of the Rudolph-designed buildings.

It is my view that the Sarasota School Board is seriously misdirecting Harvard Jolly Architects, in what amounts to an example of forced professional malpractice.

It should be noted that Harvard Jolly Architects provides almost no examples
of modernism within the firm’s portfolio of educational buildings.

In that the Sarasota School Board, unlike other historically significant Boards of the past, does not display a sufficient understanding of architecture or preservation as it relates to the process underway at Sarasota High School, here is a simple definition of what I believe to be your best guiding principle:

Treat all areas of Rudolph’s Sarasota High School Addition that are not currently defined as “conditioned space” (i.e. spaces that are served by air conditioning) as spaces (including surfaces, materials and details) to be preserved in or restored to original design condition.

This simple guideline will allow all interior conditioned spaces to be altered to fit programmatic needs, or direct that programmatic requirements are situated within new structures elsewhere in the campus. What do we teach, if not a respect for history and historic achievement?

What are our students to understand of their career potential, if our example is to subjectively erase or deform the most important legacy of our finest professionals?

I urge the Sarasota School Board to re-think the Paul Rudolph Addition to Sarasota High School as a Restoration and Preservation project, and to re-think additional programmatic requirements within that context. Free your architects to design separate structures that will serve as a standard for today.

I look forward to your response regarding this important issue and your intended actions.

Thank you.
Shawn Glen Pierson
Sarasota, FL

To whom it may concern,

As a retired architect and a current instructor who is planning on moving to the Sarasota area in the near future, I am very concerned with the current construction plans for Sarasota High School’s Paul Rudolph Addition, specifically, the demolition of Building no. 4’s common areas. The loss of the floating walkway, linear light wells, steel door frames and other character-defining elements will forever alter Paul Rudolph’s last remaining public building in Florida. As stewards of this unique, historic structure, you have the responsibility to honor the School Board’s 2007 stipulation to appropriately rehabilitate the Rudolph Addition. Please direct Harvard Jolly Architects to redesign the common areas of Building no. 4 with proper respect for the entire structure. Now is the time to do the right thing.

Thank you for your consideration.
Rafik Accad
Architectural Design Instructor, Lyman High School

Honorable Board Members and Executives,

As you know, Sarasota is internationally renowned as the birth place of the Sarasota School of Architecture. Paul Rudolph was the key figure among the original founders.  The remaining iconic structures are invaluable for architectural students, historical/architectural tourists, historians, architects and devotees such as myself who cherish historic preservation in general and historic architectural preservation in particular. The city’s remaining structures are also invaluable for international tourism for many people who are interested in seeing these structures in their unaltered, original form. Otherwise, the intent of the architect is debased by modern alteration.

Harvard Jolly is an established, reputable firm that has the capability and sensitivity to best preserve the original intent of Paul Rudolph while addressing the modern requirements of the school. I would enthusiastically encourage all of you to request that they revisit the proposal to eradicate Building no. 4’s original common areas and replace them with a plan that includes Rudolph’s character defining elements that he was famous for. The floating walkway, steel door frames, linear light wells and other elements are key to understanding this artist.

You all are to be applauded for your past vision in other preservation efforts at the school. Please remain good stewards of history to appropriately rehabilitate this irreplaceable treasure for present and future generations.

Thank you for your consideration.
Bill Stokes
Tampa, FL

Letter to the Editor

Paul Rudolph, the architect of Sarasota High School Building 4 and the adjacent gymnasium, is as highly regarded internationally as Frank Lloyd Wright. So it is ironic that his architecture is less appreciated in Sarasota, where as a young architect he formulated so much of his expertise in designing buildings that meet the needs of the climate – the cherished foundation of his long career in the USA and abroad.

Rudolph is a master of blurring the distinction between the interior and exterior. And the function of the interiors, i.e. the structure, rooms, windows and doors, mechanical systems, etc, is always recognizable on the exterior. Inside and outside are totally integrated.

Appreciating this genius is critical and fundamental in ensuring any proposals for rehabilitating Sarasota High School meet the criteria to maintain and retain Rudolph’s original intentions.

However, the current rehabilitation proposals raise critical questions about the design team’s understanding of Rudolph’s intentions. The new proposals strip away Rudolph’s historical interiors to make “functional space” for the school, meanwhile generating grave concerns.

Tearing out his interiors might be compared to removing Julie Andrew’s vocal chords. Sure the building will remain standing but merely as a shell – stripped of the intrinsic historical value of the masterpiece that it is today.

Please hear the voices that care and understand Rudolph’s work and take them not as confrontational but constructive and insist that the programming of the schools needs be reconsidered so that the interiors can remain intact.

Joyce Owens, AIA RIBA
Ft. Myers, FL

Dear Ms. Goodwin,

I am writing to you as a graduate of the Sarasota County school system and a citizen of Sarasota County. I would like to urge you to properly rehabilitate the Rudolph Addition to Sarasota High School. As someone who spent 13 years as a public school student in this community, I understand the importance of providing students and teachers with the environment and materials they need to excel – I am forever grateful to Sarasota County schools for doing so for me. I believe that that can be done without destroying a key part of Sarasota’s cultural heritage.

Sarasota is world-renowned for its architectural heritage, and Paul Rudolph’s contributions to it are some of the most important. Building 4 is Paul Rudolph’s last public building in Florida. Public school students should be taught the value of cultural heritage and should grow up with a unique sense of place. It’s buildings like the Rudolph Addition that develop that sense of place, and destroying their unique fixtures will destroy their ability to do so. Maintaining the shell of the building is not enough. It is the floating walkway, linear light wells, steel door frames and other character-defining elements that make the building what it is. We should see the building and the features with which Rudolph endowed it as an opportunity, not an obstacle. It is a learning opportunity for students and the community as a whole. We can incorporate the building – appropriately rehabilitated – into a campus that is well equipped for 21st Century Learning, which ought to and can include a hands-on look back at our past.

Finally, I urge you to be true to the commitment you made when Riverview High School was torn down. As leaders of our school system, the members of the School Board should be role models for our students. Not following through on a commitment made to your community would set a poor example for our students, as well as the faculty and staff of our school system.

I hope you’ll chose to do the right thing and preserve one of Sarasota’s great cultural and historic resources so that future generations of public school students can enjoy and learn from it. Thank you for your consideration.

Alexandra Dart
Pine View High School Class of 2005
Sarasota, FL

Dear Ms. Goodwin,

I want to see our students get the best possible 21st century learning environment at Sarasota High School.  The renovation of the campus should include, as promised to the Sarasota community in 2007, the proper rehabilitation of the Rudolph Addition.

Giving our students great opportunities to study and learn in a building that is treasured around the world for its architectural merit will additionally draw attention to Sarasota’s exceptional school system. We should take advantage of this cultural asset and all the value it offers Sarasota.

Thank you for your consideration.

Very Sincerely,
Anne Dart Yanes (Class of 1959)
Madrid, Spain

Dear Ms. Goodwin,

Buildings, as unique and exceptional as the Rudolph Addition, deserve to be properly rehabilitated and used to showcase our superior learning opportunities in Sarasota County.  Joining with Pine View and other outstanding Sarasota County schools, SHS will draw more visitors and families to relocate to our county for valuable school choices on unique campuses.

Do the right thing. Honor the 2007 agreement the Sarasota School Board made with the citizens of Sarasota. Appropriately rehabilitate the Rudolph addition to Sarasota High School.

Very sincerely,
Deborah G. Dart
Sarasota, Florida


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