Architects Give Their Design for New Tampa Museum of Art

Architects Give Their Design for New Tampa Museum

The design will more than likely be strikingly modern, of concrete and glass. And there's no doubt about the view from a new Tampa Museum of Art. There's the spiky downtown skyline, the blue Hillsborough and across the river, the Moorish minarets of the University of Tampa.

But the entrance to the museum is another story - it would be from the Poe parking garage and have to arch over railroad tracks. That - and the sometimes violent Florida weather - will be the winning architect's biggest hurdles.

ROSE: The first thing we like to do is do a sun study of the site and see what we can do to provide shade, also coverage for rain, to make the site more habitable, so that people can really go outside and use the site around the museum. Humidity is a huge issue for a museum down here.

Charles Rose's architectural firm is based in Massachusetts, but he says he is familiar with building in rainy, moldy and hot Florida. One of their projects is the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo.

Rose says while museums in the past were grand, imposing structures, modern repositories need an air of openness to attract people of all ages.

ROSE: Today, a museum needs to do so much more than just be a place for the internment of art. It needs to be a place that draws people. They might come and have a meeting, they might come to hear a presentation in the auditorium, they might see some performance art outside, they might stop at the cafe or restaurant.

The fate of the design of the new museum will be known tomorrow, when board members choose an architect. Today, three architects chosen as finalists made their presentations. They were Rose's firm, Stanley Saitowitz of San Francisco, and Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.

Alex Lamis is a project partner with Stern.

LAMIS: The location and the site of the building is fantastic, potentially fantastic. It's location on the water, it's location relative to downtown, it's location relative to the park, it's location relative to the University of Tampa, all are really fantastic. And if it's done in the right way, and it's the right building, it will really be transformative for the city.

The not-so-positive, he says, is the parking garage that more than likely will form the main entrance.

LAMIS: The parking structure is a very powerful, strong architectural statement. It's something that needs to be dealt with, some people like it, probably more people than not don't like it. Be that as it may, it is something that we are going to be designing to in relation to, as much as anything else. And whatever we do needs to take cognizance of the fact that it's an existing building that won't go away.

The new building will eventually be around 120,000 square feet, to be built in several phases. The first phase will be half that, with a budget of $25 million.

All this will be decided in less than a day. When asked if that's feasible, museum board chairwoman Cornelia Corbett said she thinks so.

CORBETT: Tomorrow morning, we will reconvene and really go over it with a fine tooth comb, but I think it's possible. It's been a long time coming, so I presume that the respect of the professional will be honored.

The building committee will discuss the architect's proposals at 9 a.m., and make their recommendation to the museum's board of trustees at noon.

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