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RUDOLPH LEGACY UNDER THREAT

AGENDA

As the bulldozers rolled in to demolish a Paul Rudolph house in Connecticut, USA, the tremors were felt 1,000 miles south in Sarasota, Florida.

The Modernist Micheels Residence was the subject of a long and bitter dispute between preservation groups and developers, and despite last-gasp attempts by the state's attorney general to save the building, it was finally razed early on the morning of 13 January ( ajplus 15.01.07).

The situation in Connecticut was of particular interest in Sarasota where another of Rudolph's works, Riverview High School, is under threat. Designed in 1958, the school was Rudolph's first building in Florida, and is a leading example of the period of the architect's career now known as 'Sarasota Modern'.

However, plans are now under way to replace the existing school with new 'state-of-the-art' facilities. A new, bigger car park is planned for the site where Rudolph's buildings currently stand.

The proposals by the Sarasota County School Board have sparked uproar, and have also prompted Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, who studied under Rudolph at Yale, to throw their weight behind the preservation campaign.

Even the guru of new urbanism, Andrés Duany, has hit out at the plans, warning the board that they will be 'forever considered barbarians' should the proposal to demolish the buildings go ahead.

Such a result is exactly what newly elected Sarasota county commissioner Joe Barbetta wants to avoid.

Barbetta is anxious about becoming a 'laughing stock because we tore down a Paul Rudolph building', and has ordered an investigation.

But according to the SAVE Riverview group leader Dick Clapp, the warnings are falling on deaf ears. 'Basically, the school board is refusing to change its decision to demolish the school, ' Clapp says.

'This has led us to start working with the Florida and National Historic Trust Organisations to make awareness even higher by getting the building listed as one of the most endangered sites in the US.'

It is the last throw of the dice for the campaign group.

By attempting to ensure Riverview's place on 'America's 11 most endangered historic places of 2007', SAVE Riverview will gain more publicity than ever before.

Similar to the UK's Buildings at Risk register, the endangered list attracts between 70 to 100 applications each year, but being listed does not necessarily mean preservation.

If the Sarasota County School Board wins its case and demolishes the school, it has promised to include 'Rudolphinspired' touches at the new school, such as 'steel beams' and 'staircases that seem to oat'.

It is this type of confused logic that seems to be endemic.

For instance, as the county discusses the demolition of Riverview High School, the Museum of Florida is holding an exhibition celebrating Paul Rudolph's work.

It is a case of being happy to look back at history, but no longer willing to live within it.

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