Sunday, July 3, 2011

Creative ideas to save some Orlando history

The "round building" today
The City of Orlando recently had a groundbreaking ceremony for the new performing arts center. The new location on the south side of downtown near City Hall, will require the demolition of several older buildings.

One of the buildings to be removed is the former American Federal Savings & Loan Building, also known as "the round building." The building is a few blocks from where my family goes to church, and it definitely has a unique look. When I was little, I thought it looked like an air filter for a car or the carousel slide projector my mother, a high school Latin teacher used in her classroom (Am I dating myself? Proud Child of the 1980s here!). 

The original two stories and its pre-cast concrete facade was instantly a downtown Orlando landmark when completed in 1963, and the upper glass tower section was added a few years later. Scott Maxwell at the Orlando Sentinel wrote an article about the building earlier this week, noting that while the building is a "mishmash of styles" and not quite an "architectural gem," it is a part of Orlando's history.
The building as it originally appeared in 1963
Over the past few years, there has been a unique effort to protect some of the round building's history: not to prevent the building from being demolished, but to save the concrete facade and reuse it as an art project somewhere else in the city.

A local design group, the Nils M. Schweizer Fellows, conducted a contest to collect submissions called "Round Building Reuse: 360." You can view the contest winners here.

The group is now trying to raise awareness about the design submissions and raise private funds to make one of the ideas reality. City officials are supportive of the project. Commissioner Robert Stuart saying that he hoped that no one would "make a mistake and put a crane on the building yet" before they had a plan in place to save the concrete facade.

As a lifelong Orlando resident, I am glad to hear that people are working to save this quirky piece of Orlando's history, and look forward to seeing which design ends up being used.

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