Sarasota firm Sweet Sparkman is the winner of New College’s Reimagining Pei competition

Paying Homage

Sarasota firm Sweet Sparkman is the winner of New College’s Reimagining Pei competition

Sweet Sparkman’s winning submission to The New College’s Re-imagining Pei competition (Courtesy The New College of Florida)

In Sarasota, Florida, local firm Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors has been selected by the New College of Florida and Architecture Sarasota as winner of the Reimagining Pei competition. Having won, Sweet Sparkman will transform the I.M. Pei–designed student dormitories at New College’s East Campus. The Sarasota office will simultaneously develop a comprehensive, future campus plan replete with a new athletic, retail, and entertainment complex.

Plans to renovate Pei Campus were first announced by The New College in 2021. Built in 1968, the Pei dormitories were deteriorating, and needed renovation. At the time, New College Interim President Richard Corcoran said a complete renovation would be “cost prohibitive if not impossible.” Earlier this year, The New College received a total of 35 entries to amend the dormitories and posit a new campus plan. In September, Sweet Sparkman, Brooks+Scarpa and STUDIOS Architecture were each shortlisted.

Sweet Sparkman’s proposal focuses on walkability throughout the campus. (Courtesy The New College of Florida)

On November 15, representives from Sweet Sparkman, Brooks+Scarpa and STUDIOS Architecture presented their shortlisted submissions at Mildred Sainer Pavilion to more than 200 New College students, faculty, staff, and local community members. Sweet Sparkman’s proposal won for its innovative approach to increase pedestrian walking paths, as well as, its enhancements for vehicular traversing of the campus, and a creative interpretation to redesign New College’s Palm Court, according to a press release. Moreover, jurors appreciated Sweet Sparkman’s design in how it preserved traditional Pei ensembles while crafting a plan that locates a new, world-class athletic complex near the student dorms. This preservation is achieved by an intricate lattice system that hovers above the existing Pei dorms.

An intricate lattice roof structure creates unique public space. (Courtesy The New College of Florida)

Renderings of the proposal show an activated Palm Court centered below a roof formed by white, crisscrossing beams. Within the innovative roof structure the designers have inserted a walkway that puts pedestrians above the tree line. The roof structure is perfectly designed for the area’s temperate climate and lets streams of natural light through to illuminate the expansive plaza, dappling the ground with a nest-like pattern of shadows. This newly reimagined public space will serve a number of functions for the university, including seating and a place to host gatherings and other large events. The flexibility of the proposed structure and its simple form allow for myriad opportunities and uses.

A walkway is inserted into the roof structure. (Courtesy The New College of Florida)
An expansive public plaza creates space for myriad activities and gatherings. (Courtesy The New College of Florida)

Brooks+Scarpa’s shortlisted submission placed programming on the roofs of the I. M. Pei–designed student dorms. The Los Angeles office’s proposal formally recalls Herzog & de Meuron’s monumental philharmonic building in Hamburg, Germany.

The shortlisted proposal by STUDIOS Architecture yielded a delicate louver system above the Pei dorms to protect them from the elements. This proposal by the office, with multiple locations in the U.S. and France, uses materials aesthetically similar to the existing, Brutalist dormitories.

“Architecture Sarasota is grateful to all three finalists for their creativity and remarkable dedication in developing bold solutions for adapting and repurposing the Pei Dormitories,” said Architecture Sarasota president Morris Hylton. “We would especially like to congratulate Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors whose design concept proposes transforming and activating the Palm Court as a dynamic and versatile public space for both the New College campus and the larger Sarasota community. The Reimagining Pei competition demonstrated the power of design thinking in transforming places and inspiring people.”

The final design concepts are on display for the public at New College’s McCulloch Pavilion.