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Check Out the Finalists in the Design Challenge to 'Reimagine' New College’s I.M. Pei Dorms

The three finalists in the design challenge include one local firm and two international ones.

By Kim Doleatto September 11, 2023

The Pei Residence Halls and Palm Court on the New College of Florida campus.

The three finalists of “Reimagining Pei—a design competition that invites architects to find new use for New College's famed I.M. Pei dormitories—are Los Angeles-based Brooks + ScarpaSTUDIOS Architecture, based in France and the U.S., and Sarasota's own Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors.

The "Reimagining Pei" competition was born from findings from  The New College Challenge, a year-long collaboration between Architecture Sarasota and New College of Florida that brought together academic teams from six top-tier research and design universities as partners to "reimagine" the college’s campus ahead of its centennial in 2060. The competition, which is also led by Architecture Sarasota and New College, aims to transform the dormitories by giving them new uses and incorporating them into an athletic and recreational complex, which will also include retail and restaurants. There were 35 entries from architects and firms across the globe, and the three finalists will each receive $10,000 from the New College Foundation to further develop their design concepts. The winning design will be announced on Nov. 17. 

Designed in the 1960s, the dorms are historically significant and a rare local example of Brutalist architecture designed by Pei, the architect behind the Pyramide du Louvre at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. In 2018, the dormitories were named one of the 50 most significant mid-century modern structures in the state. However, they’re not listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Pei passed away in 2019 at 102 years old.

Pei dormitories on the New College of Florida campus.

After an engineer's report, published in May, cited mold and moisture damage in the dorms as concerns that could impact students' health, New College moved students slated to live in them to nearby hotels. (To learn more, and read the report, click here.)

The goal of the competition includes ensuring elements of the external structure remain intact so that the original design is at least partially memorialized, although the expectation is for the buildings to be “substantially altered,” according to the competition brief. The complex already has a swimming pool and will eventually include a gymnasium, fields, and courts for baseball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis and pickleball to meet the needs of the college’s new athletic programs.

The call for proposals for the competition lasted from Aug. 1 through Sept. 1.

The selection committee was comprised of David Mohney, dean of architecture from the Michael Graves School of Architecture at Kean University; Taryn Sabia, assistant dean for research at the University of South Florida School of Architecture; and Alan Plattus, founding director of the Urban Design Workshop at Yale. They were joined by architect Max Strang, founding principal of Strang Design, and Morris “Marty” Hylton, president of Architecture Sarasota. The five judges considered the entrants’ qualifications, statements of purpose, and design approach, then narrowed them down to these three, award-winning firms. 

A luxury single-family residence designed by Sarasota-based Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors.

If you know Sarasota, you've seen designs by Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors, which is responsible for projects like the Ringling College of Art and Design Alfred R. Goldstein Library, Basch Visual Art Center and Ringling Museum of Art Asian Art Study Center. The firm also designed Courthouse Center on the corner of Main Street and Washington Boulevard in downtown Sarasota, Siesta Key Beach's east and west pavilions, and the South Lido Beach pavilion. It's also behind this residential stunner, which was listed as the most expensive home in Sarasota County ever at $32.5 million, and these six projects that span a swath of public sector industries.

The Florida Holocaust Memorial in Tallahassee designed by Brooks + Scarpa.

Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa won a Top Ten Green Projects award in 2006 when it built a "Solar Umbrella House," inspired by Sarasota’s own Umbrella House, which was designed by Sarasota School architect Paul Rudolph in 1953. Brooks + Scarpa's Solar Umbrella House was designed to establish a precedent for the next generation of California modernist architecture. The firm also collaborated with Dezeen and Adidas to create a conceptual energy-harvesting pavilion, intended for Sarasota, for Adidas' P.O.D.System architecture project, which was tied to a sneaker Adidas launched. It also designed the Florida Holocaust Memorial in Tallahassee.

Studios Architecture renovated the interior of the New York Stock Exchange. 

Finally, Studios Architecture is an international firm with six offices in France and the U.S. The firm spearheaded the interior renovation of the New York Stock Exchange and DoorDash headquarters in San Francisco. It has also led the interior design for other high-profile names, like Adobe and Airbnb in Paris, Nickelodeon, Nike, Politico and the Pentagon. Although it designed the interiors for IMG's worldwide HQ in New York City, the Pei dorms would mark the firm's first Florida-based project. 

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