The New College Challenge Student Designs
SUMMER – FALL 2023
The New College Challenge Student Designs
SUMMER – FALL 2023
University of Florida
University of Miami
University of South Florida
This exhibition is made possible, in part, thanks to the generous support of:
New College was named for a purpose. It is not, and never will be, another college. It is, and will always remain, the new college, seeking new solutions to new educational needs.
-A Profile of New College, Sarasota, Florida (ca.1964)
Founded in 1960 as a private liberal arts school, New College offers an alternative approach to higher education that eschews prescriptive curricula and shifts focus to individualized learning. Students work closely with faculty advisors to develop plans for active learning and applied research with the goal of achieving competence and real mastery. Since 2001, New College has served as the official honors school for the State University System of Florida.
The evolution of New College over the last six decades is reflected in its physical campus. Located along Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the northern edge of Sarasota, the larger New College community is comprised of three distinct campuses (Bayfront, Caples, and Pei) that are part of a larger arts and cultural district that includes the Ringling Museum of Art, Ca’d’Zan (former home of John and Mable Ringling), and the Historic Asolo Theater. The campus consists of some 55 buildings constructed over the last 100 years (ca.1920 to present day).
The initial 110-acre campus was comprised of two parcels, including a portion of the original Ringling estate on Sarasota Bay and 12 acres of airport land along U.S. 41, originally referred to as the East and now known as the Pei Campus. The Ringling estate came with two historic, bayfront mansions that would be adaptively used as library, classrooms, and faculty offices, among other uses.
In the early 1960s, Philip Hanson Hiss, the first Chairman of the New College Board of Trustees, engaged with some of the most prominent architects from the era to help devise an approach to the architecture and campus’s built environment that matched the innovative educational model. Architect Ieoh Ming or I.M. Pei was ultimately chosen. Although it is thought Hiss had ambitions to develop the core of the campus along the bayfront, the first three Pei designed residence halls, completed in 1965, were located at the East Campus. Pei would then design the adjacent Hamilton Center with student dining and classroom and meeting spaces.
In 1971, the New College campus was expanded when Ellen Caples, a long-term supporter of the school, donated the historic, bayfront home and 12-acre property she owned with her late husband Ralph. The Caple Campus now houses the Environmental Studies and Fine Arts programs and a recently completed Marine Science Research and Sailing Dock.
Over time, prominent academic buildings, among a number of new residence halls, were added to the campus including the Sudakoff Conference Center (1983), Cook Library (1986), R.V. Heiser Natural Sciences Complex (2000), and the Academic Center known as ACE (2011). The Academic Center was designed by Moule & Poyzoides Architects & Urbanists who completed the last official master plan in 2008, updated in 2016 by Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors.
Over the last year, New College, assisted by Architecture Sarasota, embarked on a bold initiative that has challenged the institution, local residents, and other stakeholders to create an innovative campus that embodies the aspirations of the school while helping meet the most pressing needs of the surrounding community.
The New College Challenge engaged six top-tier research and design universities (“Academic Teams”) in a collaborative and inclusive planning process focused on reimagining the spaces and places of the campus. The overall charge to the Academic Teams was to create bold visions and design concepts that address five primary goals.
Redesign the College’s physical environment, including its architecture and outdoors spaces, to better support and inspire the campus, Sarasota-Bradenton, and Florida, communities.
Provide learning and living spaces that help nurture and prepare future generations of unconventional thinkers and leaders.
Support the institution’s distinct approach to liberal arts education predicated on an alternative learning paradigm that includes active learning, applied research, and partner engagement that addresses global challenges.
Utilize the adaptation of the campus as a model for enhancing sustainability and resilience in the built and natural environments.
Establish a cohesive architectural character and landscape design approach that reflects the College’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.
Philip Hiss and New College
…good design per se costs nothing and is worth far more than is generally realized, as a positive
tool for education: the building itself teaches.
-Philip Hanson Hiss
New College was founded in 1960 by local civic leaders who regarded Sarasota as a “college
town without a college.” A key figure in this history was Philip Hanson Hiss. Known as “the man
who made Sarasota modern” through his role as the impresario and promoter of the Sarasota
School of Architecture, Hiss’ wide-ranging interests transformed Sarasota into a celebrated
destination known for exceptional culture, art, design, and education. From the Lido Shores
residential development to the Sarasota Public School Program, Hiss’s forward-thinking and
innovative projects changed Sarasota for the better and continue to offer lessons for today.
As Chair of the Board of Public Instruction, Hiss ran a school building program that produced
architecturally significant modernist buildings from 1954-1960, including Riverview High School
(1958) and an addition to Sarasota High School (1959). He carried on this visionary connection
between educational reform and modern architecture by enlisting architect I.M. Pei to design
New College’s campus.
I.M. Pei Dorms at New College
I want to bring out the best in a community and contribute something of permanent value.
The Bates, Rothenberg, and Johnson Residence Halls, commonly referred to as the Pei
Dormitories, at New College of Florida are the only designs by I.M. Pei in the state and are a
rare example of Brutalism from this era in Sarasota. Pei, an internationally-renowned architect,
arrived in the U.S. in 1935 from China. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. New College appointed Pei as the
architect for the new $15-million campus in 1963. Sarasota architect, Bert Brosmith, served as
the local consultant for Pei’s New York-headquartered firm.
In Florida, Pei imported his individual approach of the Brutalist style to give aesthetic form to
the burgeoning school. He created a heavy concrete frame for his buildings in contrast to the
transparency and lightness of the Sarasota School architects. Designing the dorms in tight
clusters of geometrically arranged groups, the Pei-designed residence halls are composed of
three courts or pavilions designed for student living, each centered around a lightly landscaped
“Palm Court” (planted with rows of tall palms) for communal gathering. Small ponds with
fountains in the courtyard have been replaced by gardens. In total, the courts can
accommodate 250 students in the spacious rooms, with each room having its own private
bathroom. Balconies with sliding glass doors brought in light and air–and rain according to
student residents. Financial problems caused Pei to resign from the New College project in
The Pei Dormitories were identified as one of 50 architecturally significant “flagship” structures
prioritized for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as part of “Florida’s Mid-Century
Modern Architecture (1945-1975)” study and report, completed by the University of Florida
Historic Preservation Program in partnership with the Florida Division of Historical Resources.