Observer: October 12, 2016
CityLab Sarasota students design a new future for the bayfront
The Center for Architecture Sarasota exhibit showcases visions for a bayfront cultural district.
Swedish transplant Gabriella Ebbesson is sick of Floridians’ love affair with air conditioning.
However, as an architecture student with a knack for melding earth, water and sky in her designs for a bayfront symphony hall, she might have found a way to get locals outside their climate-controlled safety nets.
Ebbesson is one of six students from the The University of Florida School of Architecture CityLab Sarasota program who were challenged to reimagine the Sarasota bayfront. Starting in January, the students in the Advanced Graduate Architectural Design II course spent the semester researching the 42-acre plot, designing a master plan and creating models for a new symphony hall for the Sarasota Orchestra. This spring, the students presented their ideas to CityLab faculty members and members of the community group Bayfront 20:20.
Now, the sketches and models created for the project are on display through Nov. 30, at the Chapell Gallery in the the Center for Architecture Sarasota, which doubles as the students’ classroom and studio.
Ebbesson says she and her classmates saw the project as an opportunity to get locals outside to experience the natural beauty that’s hidden from view as they drive down U.S. Highway 41.
Martin Gold, CityLab Sarasota’s program director, says it’s a way for students to learn about civic design and idea presentation. He hopes exhibit-goers will see the designs as a means of connecting the community in a space that’s accessible to all.
?There’s an opportunity here to preserve this in a way that everyone who lives here, no matter how wealthy you are, can access this site in a meaningful way,? Gold says.
The area along Sarasota Bay, bordered by 10th Street to the north, North Tamiami Trail to the east, Boulevard of the Arts to the south and the bay to the west, contains key cultural hubs, including Art Center Sarasota, Municipal Auditorium and the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. They’re all sites that local art aficionados value deeply.
The challenge was redesigning the bayfront in a way that maintains the integrity of these spaces while addressing the future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Gold says.
Sandy Timpson Motto, the vice chair of the board for the Center for Architecture Sarasota, says everyone in town seems to either ?love or hate? the Van Wezel, which has been one of the most recognizable sites along the bay since it was built in 1968. Its unique shell-inspired exterior as well as its 1,741-seat interior, which Gold says is not big enough to host the high-caliber shows that it tries to attract, presented students with an interesting trial.
During the first month of the project, the students split into teams of two to offer proposals. The result is three master plans designed to either retain, repurpose or replace the hall.