18 major architect firms invited to submit proposals for Sarasota Performing Arts Center

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles was designed by architect Frank Gehry, whose firm is one of 18 invited to submit proposals for the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center.

Originally published by Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Several internationally prominent architectural firms and others that have created recognizable projects around the world are on the list for potential companies to design the proposed Sarasota Performing Arts Center.

Gehry Partners LLP, the firm founded by Frank Gehry, one of the world’s best known architects, who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is among the 18 firms that have been invited to submit proposals by the architect selection task force. The panel was put together to recommend a firm to the city of Sarasota and the Van Wezel Foundation, which is overseeing the project. The proposals will not feature a potential design for the new building but are intended to show each firm’s ability to take on the scope of the new building.

The cost of the center was initially estimated to be between $300 million and $350 million but has been reduced in recent months to $275 million to $300 million.

Also on the list is Renzo Piano Building Workshop, whose recent work includes the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles; Adjaye Associates, which designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture; Arquetectonica, the Miami-based firm that designed the former headquarters for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; and Diamond Schmitt, which designed the renovation of David Geffen Hall in New York and the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto, home to the Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet of Canada.

The committee also is seeking proposals from: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which worked on the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the renovation and redesign of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Foster + Partners Limited, which has designed stadiums, office towers and company headquarters; the Danish firm Henning Larsen, whose projects include the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Iceland and the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen; Pelli Clarke & Partners, which designed the Chengdu Museum of Natural History in China, and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County; Rex Architecture P.C., which designed the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center in New York and the Shenzen Opera House in China; Safdie Architects, which designed an expansion of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri; Sanaa Jimusho Ltd., a Japanese firm that has designed palaces, offices and memorials; Shigeru  Ban Architects, which has designed a variety of airports, homes, parks, world heritage sites and more; Snøhetta, which created the Norwegian National and Ballet, which incorporates the water around it; Steven Holl Architects, which designed numerous arts center, including The Reach at the Kennedy Center, Z Space and the Qingdao Culture and Art Center in China; Studio Gang, whose founder Jeanne Gang helped the Van Wezel Foundation set guidelines for the needs of the new center, designed the global terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the Spelman College 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, the Hudson Arts Building in New York and the Shanghai International Dance Center; and Zaha Hadid Architects, which has created the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Center, the Beethoven Concert Hall in Bonn, Germany and the Budapest Museum of Ethnography.

Over the next few months, the panel will reduce the pool of firms to four to six finalists. No Sarasota firms responded to the initial inquiry for submissions, according to Jan Thornburg, the city’s senior communication manager.

“As a once-in-a-generation project, these applicants represent the best of the best firms from around the world, having designed some of the most world-renowned institutions across the globe,” City Manager Marlon Brown said in a statement. “This remarkable response shows how highly regarded the world views Sarasota’s arts and culture as we look to continue to build upon our future as a cherished destination.”

Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation, which has a 50-50 partnership with the city to oversee the project and operations of the building, said the selection process “moves us closer to the vision of Sarasota as an international destination for the arts.” Earlier this year, she said the city was “looking for a symbol of Sarasota to be iconic and recognizable” and a structure featuring “contemporary design with universal access and programming throughout the year.”

The task force is made up of five community members with business and arts backgrounds who are working to select a firm with a track record that proves it can create such a building. Committee chair Jenne Britell said the committee is not selecting a firm based on design proposals, which will come later.

The new center is expected to replace the 52-year-old Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which Foundation leaders have stressed can no longer meet the needs of the growing population in the Sarasota area. Under the agreement between the city and the Foundation, the Van Wezel can not be used as a performance venue that competes for bookings with the new center.

But the proposed new building also has 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 Orchestra, a major tenant of the Van Wezel, plan to build its own music center on Fruitville Road near I-75. The music center is expected to feature some of the kind of the local arts groups and visiting artists and ensembles that have been part of the traditional Van Wezel season schedule.

On Jan. 3, the City Commission is expected to discuss seating a committee to consider future uses for the distinctive Van Wezel building. A Keep The Van Wezel petition drive has attracted more than 2,000 supporters to encourage keeping the purple-hued hall as the city’s performing arts venue.

The Van Wezel Foundation has created a website to address questions about the project: vanwezelfoundation.org/onpoint.

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