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Museum trustees hire an architect

The choice is expected to bring a modernist approach and an "edgy and seminal" design.

By LENNIE BENNETT
Published December 1, 2006


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TAMPA - Tampa Museum of Art trustees unanimously hired an architect they believe will bring brilliance and, quite possibly, controversy to the design of the new museum, to be located on the Hillsborough River behind the Poe parking garage in downtown Tampa.

The trustees Thursday acted on the recommendation of their building committee, which chose California's Stanley Saitowitz, who also is a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

The choice came after a two-hour discussion among committee members about the merits of three finalists: Charles Rose Architects, Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Saitowitz, who each made presentations Wednesday.

Saitowitz's projects have included the Yerba Buena lofts and the Embarcadero Ribbon Promenade in San Francisco and the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. His signature materials are concrete, metal and glass, combined into cerebral, usually industrial-looking buildings. He is often described as a modernist in style.

In a 1995 interview, he said, "I am interested in exposing the essential nature of each particular situation - of turning the site, through building, into a state of mind."

The choice for the building committee, which met before the board meeting, was between "a good soft slipper, comfortable, competent but nothing exceptional," said Sara Richter, a trustee and building committee member, "and something edgy and seminal."

"People will praise us or curse us with Saitowitz," said committee member William Blanchard.

This is the fourth - and trustees hope the last - plan for a new museum.

In 2000 the trustees and then-Mayor Dick Greco unveiled a grand design by internationally famous architect Rafael Vinoly that was derided by some people as too contemporary and expensive.

The plan began to unravel in 2003 when Pam Iorio was elected mayor and questioned its financial soundness. That plan was abandoned in 2005.

Two more sites were proposed and rejected amid bickering between city officials and museum leaders.

This new site, not far from the museum's current address of 600 N Ashley Drive, was acceptable both to the trustees and the mayor.

Board president Cornelia Corbett said the museum foundation will pay the architectural fees, still undetermined, so the decision does not need city approval.

The project is estimated to cost about $41-million, she said, which includes a $10-million endowment. The city has committed $18.5-million, with the trustees responsible for the balance.

Leaders will put the process on a fast track and hope to open the doors before the end of 2008.

Saitowitz did not present any conceptual drawings of what the new museum might look like, but Peter Hepner, a committee member and architect, was unconcerned.

"Our building won't look like something he's done in the past," he said. "He'll provide a building that will make us forget about the Vinoly."

Lennie Bennett can be reached at 727 893-8293 or lennie@sptimes.com.

[Last modified December 1, 2006, 05:35:52]


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