THREATENED: Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School

On Tuesday, June 20, 2006, despite months of active campaigning by local and national preservationists, the Sarasota (Florida) School Board voted 5-0 to demolish Paul Rudolph’s 1957 Riverview High School. It was Rudolph’s first major architectural commission, following his remarkable early period of residential design. The steel-frame structure's concrete sunshades and innovative arrangement of breezeways and courtyards helped establish Rudolph’s reputation as the father of the Sarasota school of architecture. Over the past twenty years, Riverview lost many of its distinctive solar shading features and its flat roof, which had been replaced with a metal hip design. Initially, architectural firm BMK's master plan for a new school on the same 42-acre site foresaw the Rudolph building’s rehabilitation. On May 18, 2006, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation listed the building as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in the state. Then, to the surprise of local and international Rudolph devotees, one month later, the School Board announced a multimillion-dollar plan for building a new Riverview that meant all of the existing 48-year-old school's buildings would be demolished to make way for parking.

The Sarasota School Board had received expressions of support for the building from throughout the architectural community, including a letter from Lord [Norman] Foster of Thames Bank; John Howey, FAIA , the author of The Sarasota School of Architecture, 1941-1966 (MIT Architectural Press, 1995) and from Joe King, AIA, author, with Christopher Domin of Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses (Princeton Architectural Press, 2003), as well as from the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) and the Sarasota Historic Alliance, and the President-elect of AIA Florida.

This story was also featured in the most recent DOCOMOMO US newsletter (Summer, 2006). To view the full newsletter, click here.

For further information on local efforts to save Riverview High School, visit: http://saveriverview.blogspot.com/

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