Students present their first concept proposals for the cultural arts center to a group of architects. From left to right: Larry Scarpa, Architect, Los Angeles; Damien Blumetti, Architect, Sarasota; Germane Barnes, Architect, Miami; Frank Sparkman, Architect, Tennessee; Pietro Mendanca, UF Architecture; Greta Crispen, UF Architecture; Frank Moore, UF Construction Management.

This Spring, a group of 19 UF seniors will be traveling about three hours south to take their midterm and final exams.

The reason, one professor said, is because their designs for a proposed Sarasota, Florida, cultural arts center will be judged by local architects.

Martin Gold, a UF associate architecture professor, said the project will be part of a capstone class for architecture and graduate construction management students. In Newtown, a neighborhood in Sarasota, the class will be divided into six groups and tasked with submitting a design to members of the community and the Newtown Community Redevelopment Agency.

The students work with CityLab Sarasota, a UF-affiliated studio focused on architecture, faculty and other local organizations to develop plans for the proposed center, said Gold, program director for the studio.

“Sometimes they refer to these projects as service-learning projects where we try to find a need in the community or an interest in the community,” Gold said.

The project, titled Good Will Reconsidered, is the reason why the students in the Integrated Project Delivery Studio course have already taken two trips to Newtown and plan to make more, he said. On the trips, they assess the existing building on the designated plot, which may be used partially in the redesign for the cultural arts center.

“That could include partial shell or by using the materials in a re-use situation with careful deconstruction,” Gold wrote in an email.

Students will also complete budget studies, analyze costs and study the local culture, Gold said.

Newton’s Community Redevelopment Agency can choose whether to use the proposed designs, said Ravi Srinivasan, an assistant professor in UF’s Rinker School of Construction Management.

“The local architects, come and critique the designs of each of the teams,” he said.

Jasmine Jimenez, a 21-year-old UF architecture senior, is one of the students involved in the study. She said the groups met with locals to learn more about the local culture. She said she’s looking forward to seeing how the arts center contributes to Newtown.

“I think at the very least it’ll bring the community together and inspire them to unite and work as one to keep their community alive,” she said.