by Thomas Thorspecken
On September 18th, I went down to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts construction site to watch as the Round Buildings brise-soleil was removed. The round building was designed in 1963 by Orlando architects Bob Murphy and Frank Sheehy. The design was an exciting futuristic change from the usual cement and stucco monoliths that litter downtown. It sort of reminds me of Disney's Carousel of Progress which first appeared at the 1964 New York World's Fair.
The precast cement brise-soleil was designed to help shade the windows from the harsh Florida sun. The upper floors were added at a much later date. Commissioner Patty Sheehan was instrumental in the effort to have the unique brise-soleil preserved. Each individual vertical section had to be reinforced by a steel structure to be sure it didn't break apart when being transported. They could then be clipped free of the connecting bolts. I sketched for two hours and only one section was carefully removed in that time. Each section was then loaded onto a truck and transported to a city storage yard. Ironically the round building looked like it belonged next to the modern design of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
As of January 5th while forty plus same-sex couples got married at City Hall across the street, the round building looked like it had been hit by multiple bunker busting bombs. The cement shell had been removed and the rest of the building was collapsing in on itself. Someone stopped to admire my sketch in progress. He was the son of Jack Jennings, the local contractor who first built the Round Building. He asked to take a photo of my sketch to remember his fathers legacy. Niles M. Schweitzer Fellows held a design competition to find creative ways to reuse the preserved brise-soleil. There were some incredibly creative designs, but there are no funds to make any of them a reality. It is harder to create than to destroy. Who knows how long these cement sentinels will remain hidden in the city's storage facility. I remains to be seen what the Next Round for these panels will be.