Group attempts to save a piece of Orlando history

Time is running out for one of Orlando's most recognizable buildings

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - Time is running out on one of Orlando's most recognizable buildings. Plans are under way to demolish the so called "Round Building" at the intersection of Orange avenue and Anderson Street in the downtown core.

The building sits in the future footprint of the new Dr. Phillips performing arts complex. Now a group of preservationists are forging a last ditch effort to save a part of it's most recognizable feature.

The Nils M. Schweizer Fellows, a group dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Central Florida's modern architecture, has led a campaign since 2008 to save the building's trademark exterior concrete wall. The symmetrical design covers the building's second floor. 

Member John Kaiser says it's about preserving part of what makes Orlando unique.

"History makes up a big piece of who we are," he says, "Great cities are made of great architecture, past and present, and we really feel that Orlando should keep some of its past."

The group has asked students from the combined Valencia, UCF and University of Florida 2+2+2 architecture program to submit ideas for the reuse of the building's geometric concrete wall in another project.

The designs must use at least some of the 120 pre-cast pieces that make up the lower portion of the building.  Kaiser says the plan is to build it somewhere in the city on public land.

"It could be sculptural, art, it could be functional. It could be used as a new space in one of the City of Orlando parks," Kaiser said.

The buildings pedigree goes back to the early 60s when it was designed by local architect Bob Murphy. Murphy studied under famed modernist pioneer Walter Gropius.

Originally built as the American Federal Savings and Loan Building, it has many  characteristics of the Gropius - Bauhaus movement.

The Nils M. Schweizer Fellows hope the competition will build public interest and help raise private donations that will be needed to complete the project. 

The effort has caught the eye of city officials.

Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan has pledged $70,000 from her capitol improvement budget toward the removal and storage of the pieces.

"We do have a tendency to tear things down because we don't think we have history, but I think the only way to actually have that is to keep what we have," she said as she stood in front of the building. "If we can't save the whole thing, to save a piece of it, I think that's important."

Contest winners will be announced Nov. 1 at a reception inside the building. 

The group asks that donations be made through Strengthen Orlando, the city's non-profit fundraising entity.

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