Main Street Modern: Riverview High School
Designed by Paul Rudolph (1918-1997), Riverview High School first welcomed students in 1958. Rudolph was one of the leaders of the Sarasota School of architecture, a regional modern movement focused on designs especially suited for the climatic conditions of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Rudolph’s design was attuned to the area’s subtropical climate, making thorough use of passive ventilation, day lighting, and shading. Unfortunately, more recently the building sustained unsympathetic alterations, including the introduction of air conditioning, which weakened its environmental qualities and diminished its architectural appeal. Despite the building’s importance, the School Board of Sarasota County announced plans to demolish it, as part of a phased reconstruction of the Riverview campus. After a vigorous campaign for its preservation, the building was demolished in 2009.
How We Helped
In 2007 WMF supported the efforts of a committee of Sarasota architects to demonstrate the feasibility of preserving and rehabilitating the mid-century building. The result was a design competition organized by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation. After the first phase of the competition, WMF provided additional support for the winning entry to be further developed into a viable proposal. WMF also sponsored a project of the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning to prepare architectural drawings of the building. A student-led effort resulted in a valuable set of drawings, executed to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Despite these efforts, the School Board of Sarasota County voted to demolish the building in 2008.
Why It Matters
Designed to accommodate the local subtropical environment, the building incorporated design ideas that have attracted renewed interest as concern for climate change has grown. Its significance was demonstrated by the national and international attention that local mobilization was able to attract. The campaign, which received the support of world-famous architects, also showed the power of design for reuse as an advocacy tool.