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Palladio Awards

Project: McKean Gateway & Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Building, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

Architect: Chael, Cooper & Associates P.A., Coral Gables, FL; Maricé Chael, AIA, principal in charge

General Contractor: Lamm & Co., Orlando, FL

Stonework (McKean Gateway Arches): Barbara Tattersfield Design, Winter Park, FL



New Design & Construction

Winner: Chael, Cooper & Associates P.A.

Gateway to the Past

By Will Holloway

When Rollins College sought to transform the nondescript main entrance of its Winter Park, FL, campus into a more formal public face for the school, it turned to Coral Gables, FL-based Chael, Cooper & Associates. The resulting McKean Gateway and Rinker Building both reflect the college's predominant Spanish-Mediterranean architecture and realize its long-standing desire for a formal entrance to its campus.

Rollins was founded in 1885, making it Florida's oldest recognized college. Located a few miles north of Orlando on the shores of Lake Virginia, its 70-acre campus is lined with oak trees and characterized by stucco and Spanish tile-roofed buildings inspired by the work of renowned Florida architect Addison Mizner. Notable additions over the years have included Ralph Adams Cram's Knowles Chapel (1932), James Gamble Rogers' Olin Library (1986) and the Cornell Campus Center (1999), which was designed by Boston, MA-based Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott. For years, the college's de facto main entrance – where the campus meets Winter Park's main north-south thoroughfare, Park Avenue – had been identified by nothing more than a low marker that college Vice President and Treasurer George Herbst describes as "resembling a tombstone." So, in 2002, in conjunction with a city-wide beautification program that included the enhancement of Park Avenue – which was being orchestrated by the town-planning firm with which Chael, Cooper & Associates is affiliated, Dover, Kohl & Partners – Rollins set out to turn its inconspicuous front door into a grand entryway.

"The college, throughout all its years, has never had a formal entrance," says Herbst. "So this project was the result of our desire to have an appropriate point of arrival at the college. We considered numerous options. Years and years ago there was some thought that it should arch over the roadway, but that just seemed inappropriate. Then the question becomes, 'What do you do on either side?'"

In order to come up with a satisfactory answer to that question, Chael, Cooper & Associates presented the college with multiple design concepts, including obelisks, trellised pavilions and a three-story building with a corner tower. "Our approach was to give them several alternatives," says Maricé Chael, AIA, principal in charge. "It began with two small obelisks and ranged to the more ambitious, which was a substantial building on the corner. What actually came out in the end was a hybrid of those two ideas."

After reviewing the architect's proposals, Rollins opted for a pair of triumphal arches and an adjacent building to house administrative offices. In order to ensure public consensus for the design, the college went so far as to commission a full-size model of one of the arches. "That was quite fascinating for people – that a college would actually construct in advance, out of wood, what it was going to build," says Herbst. "A few things came from that – we set it at a slightly different location and we increased the size a bit, because it was difficult for two people to walk through the arch."

"From looking at drawings alone, a lot of people thought it was too big," says Chael. "What we wanted was a scale that wasn't overpowering but still terminated the axis to Park Avenue – yet intimate enough so that two people could walk side by side and not feel overwhelmed. The initial model made it clear that even though everyone thought it was overly monumental, it actually had to be slightly bigger in order to feel right – taking into consideration the scale of the avenue and the pedestrian scale."

In conceiving the arches, the design team looked both to the Rollins campus and to campuses beyond Winter Park. "We took it out of the architectural context of the campus – the use of finials, the use of scrolls," says Herbst. "But we also looked at a number of other college campuses – one similar to this, although it's made out of a totally different stone, is on the campus of the Indiana University."

Like Indiana University's Sample Gates, the McKean Gateway is composed of two asymmetrical triumphal arches topped with finials highlighting the center axis. The McKean Gateway finials are also abutted by scrolls that, moving away from the finials, are extracted to a single line. The color and dimensions of the marble were meant to be in keeping with the stone of Knowles Chapel. Stonework was provided by Barbara Tattersfield Design, of Winter Park. Each arch is adorned with two light fixtures from Ball & Ball Lighting, of Exton, PA.

The arches were completed in the first phase of construction. The second phase turned the focus to the Rinker Building, which would rise on a site adjacent to the McKean Gateway that had previously been occupied by an automobile repair shop. The biggest challenge in its design was a limited timeframe; the program and design had to be produced within a four-month period. "Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker made a quick completion date imperative for giving the college the funding," says Chael. "In order to do the quick turnaround, I did a lot of the detailing myself and incorporated the hand drawings into the more technical CAD drawings. Based on my hand drawings, I worked together with Castlestone [Orlando, FL], which produced 3-D drawings as their shop drawings. It was done in a very compressed period of time."

Today, the 10,000-sq.ft. Rinker Building houses the school's admission and financial aid offices. Laid out in an L-shaped plan, it features stucco walls, a Spanish-tile roof and Roman-esque arched windows. The building's decorative cast-stone elements were fabricated by Castlestone. Along with the arches, the Rinker Building acts as the gateway to the college – where prospective students get their first impressions of the college. So far, thanks to Chael, Cooper & Associates, those impressions have been decidedly positive.  



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