Drawing Board Wiped Clean For New Tampa Art Museum

Museum Site
TAMPA -

Stanley Saitowitz is a practicing architect and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He spent close to two hours schooling museum enthusiasts on his concept of design.

SAITOWITZ: I have a concept of how it's organized and how the spaces are going to work and I'm working now on what its going to look like. But the look is the result, rather than the starting point.

This is actually the second start to construct a new art museum.

A finished design by New York architect Rafael Vinoly proved too costly and controversial and was not built.

In the subsequent two years - it was suggested the art collection be moved into the historic federal courthouse - which faltered - as did a deal to buy the downtown building known as The Cubes.

The museum board and city finally settled on a site on the river not too far from the existing building. It's next to the proposed Children's Museum, the Poe Parking Garage and bordered by railroad tracks.

Jason Ball of the web site skyscrapercity.com questioned how the architect planned to overcome the site's limitations.

BALL: You've got a lot of buildings with floor to ceiling glass, views in all directions and obviously that won't be desirable to the north.

SAITOWITZ: I'm hoping the Children's museum has solved that problem and I can copy that. (Laughter.) I'm very aware of how ugly it is. I mean we have a limited width for our site. So we're faced with being cheek to jowl with it.

Sarah Richter - a museum trustee who favored Rafael Vinoly's design - called Saitowitz the perfect choice to approach a new design on a new site.

RICHTER: He listens. I happen to have liked the Vinoly building very much but I don't know that he listened as much as Stanley is going to listen.

And Saitowitz got an earful - he fielded questions from an audience of more than 100 people. Jeff Brady - a designer with Chaney Design Partnership - was concerned by the architect's modern and sleek concrete, glass and steel style of buildings.

BRADY: I hope he is less monolithic in his design for us. I think that the last thing that that site needs is a monolithic building. I like his idea that the art should be the star, but I hope that the building is a little more dynamic than some of the ones I did see.

Tampa Art dealer Vincent Sorrentino wants the museum to sit on the main street, not tucked next to the river.

SORRENTINO: This is the only city that I've been in and - I'm not kidding I belong to 15 different museums - that hides its facilities for culture, and that's what I find wrong with this location.

But the location is set - the design and the material is now the question.

Museum board chairwoman Cornelia Corbett is leaving the visual concept to the architect - but she does have some thoughts on how the museum should feel when you walk through the doors.

CORBETT: It needs to be warm. It needs to be welcoming and at the same time stimulating.

The San Francisco architect will be back in Tampa in about two months with schematic drawings of the new museum.

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