Gehry Partners, Renzo Piano are among the firms seeking to replace Van Wezel
Several world-renowned architectural firms and others who have created iconic projects around the world are on the list of potential firms to design the proposed Sarasota Center for the Performing Arts.
Gehry Partners LLP, the firm founded by Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most famous architects, who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is among 18 firms invited to submit proposals by the Architect Selection Task Force. The committee was put together to recommend a company to the city of Sarasota and the Van Wezel Foundation, which is overseeing the project. The proposals will not include a potential design for the new building but are intended to demonstrate each company’s ability to undertake the scale of the new building.
The center’s cost was initially estimated at between $300 million and $350 million, but was reduced in recent months to $275 million to $300 million.
Also on the list is the workshop of Renzo Piano, whose recent works include the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles; Adjaye Associates, which designed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Arquetectonica, the Miami-based firm that designed the former headquarters of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; and Diamond Schmidt, who designed the renovation of David Geffen Hall in New York and the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto, home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.
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The committee is also seeking proposals from: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who worked on the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the renovation and redesign of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Foster + Partners Limited, which designed the stadiums, office towers and corporate headquarters; Danish firm Henning Larsen, whose projects include the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Iceland and the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen; Billy Clark & Associates, which designed the Chengdu Museum of Natural History in China and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami-Dade County; Rex Architecture PC, which designed the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts at the World Trade Center in New York and the Shenzhen Opera House in China; Safdie Architects, which designed expansions for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, and the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri; Sanae Jimosho Co., Ltd., a Japanese company that designed palaces, offices and memorials; Shigeru Ban Architects, which has designed a variety of airports, homes, parks, World Heritage sites and more; Snøhetta, who created the Norwegian National Ballet, which includes the surrounding waters; Steven Holl Architects, who has designed several arts centers, including The Reach at the Kennedy Center, Z Space, and the Qingdao Culture and Arts Center in China; Studio Gang, whose founder Jane Gang helped the Van Wezel Foundation develop guidelines for the new center’s needs, designed the Global Terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Spelman College’s Center for Innovation and the Arts and the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. in Little Rock; Studios Architecture, which designed Google’s Bay View Development, New York’s Hudson Arts Building and the Shanghai International Dance Center; and Zaha Hadid Architects, which created the Abu Dhabi Center for the Performing Arts, the Beethoven Concert Hall in Bonn, Germany, and the Budapest Museum of Ethnography.
Over the next few months, the committee will narrow the number of companies down to four to six finalists. No Sarasota businesses responded to an initial inquiry to apply, according to Jan Thornberg, the city’s senior director of communications.
“As a once-in-a-generation project, these applicants represent the best companies from around the world, having designed some of the most globally recognized institutions around the world,” City Manager Marlon Brown said in a statement. “This amazing response shows how much the world values Sarasota’s arts and culture as we look forward to continuing to build on our future as a treasured destination.”
The selection process “brings us closer to Sarasota’s vision as an international arts destination,” said Cheryl Mendelsohn, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation, which has a 50-50 partnership with the city to oversee the project and building operations. Earlier this year, she said the city was “looking for an icon of Sarasota that is iconic and recognizable” and a structure that featured “contemporary design with universal access and year-round programming.”
The task force consists of five community members with business and technical backgrounds who work to select a company with a proven track record that proves it can construct such a building. The committee does not select a firm based on design proposals, which will come later, said committee chair Jane Brettell.
The new center is expected to replace the 52-year-old Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which foundation leaders assert can no longer meet the needs of the Sarasota area’s growing population. Under the agreement between the city and the foundation, Van Wezel cannot be used as a performance venue competing for bookings with the new center.
But the proposed new building has also drawn opposition because of the potential price tag, uncertainty about the future status of the Van Wezel Building, and the announcement earlier this year that the Sarasota Philharmonic, the anchor tenant of the Van Wezel Building, plans to build its own new building. The private music center is on Fruitville Road near I-75. The music center is expected to feature some of the local arts groups and visiting artists and bands that have been part of Van Wezel’s traditional season schedule.
On Jan. 3, the City Commission is expected to discuss forming a committee to consider future uses for the landmark Van Wezel building. A Keep the Van Wezel petition drive attracted more than 2,000 supporters to encourage the preservation of the Purple Hall as a performing arts venue in the city.
The Van Wezel Foundation has created a website to answer questions about the project: vanwezelfoundation.org/onpoint.
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