“The smooth flowing design would not have been as dramatic without the monolithic nature of precast concrete.”

Harmon H. Haley Jr., Renker Eich Parks Architects

 

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Robert & Beverly Koski Bell Tower & Academic Plaza in Sarasota, Fla.

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When philanthropist Beverly Koski agreed to fund the bell tower at New College of Florida, she didn’t want a traditional square tower with a clock face and domed top. She wanted something original and elegant that would reflect the educational opportunities taking place every day in its shadow.

After much back and forth, and many design iterations, the architects chose precast concrete to create an innovative design that reimagined what a bell tower could look like.
“The precast design allowed a structure with a forceful spiraling monolithic ascending flow,” says Harmon H. Haley Jr, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, architect at Renker Eich Parks Architects in Saint Petersburg.

The entire tower is a cool white, chosen to represent the light of knowledge, Haley explains. The base begins with a series of steps to reflect how knowledge is built upon itself. At the top of the steps emerge four narrow columns that twist out of the cardinal points of a compass, holding the bell at its center. These reflect the germination of a seed growing out of the earth and reaching for the sun.

The design accommodated Koski’s unique vision for the tower, but it wasn’t easy to create, he says. “The shape, the finish, and cost were some of greatest challenges to overcome.”
Del Hight of STABIL Precast in Saint Petersburg helped him meet those challenges. “Making forms to accommodate the various converging angles while tying in the very large numerous sleeve connections with electrical feeds for lighting and bell controls was challenging,” admits Hight. “But it was all a perfect fit in the field.”

The use of precast concrete enabled the team to create the spiraling design while simultaneously cutting the cost of the project dramatically. “Ironically the first design, which would have been a very traditional bell tower, cost twice as much as this final design made from architectural precast concrete,” Haley says.

Its durability, however, is what makes this high-performance precast concrete design truly stand-out, Hight says. “Using white cement and aggregates along with totally enclosed connections assured a resilient maintenance-free monument for the school.”

Haley agrees. “We endeavored to create a bell tower that reflects the character of New College of Florida,” he says. “To that end we knew the materials for this bell tower would have to stand the test of time.”

PHOTO CREDIT

Renker Eich Parks Architects

PROJECT CREDITS

Owner: New College of Florida, Sarasota, Fla.
Architect: Renker Eich Parks Architects, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Precaster: STABIL  Precast, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Precast Specialty Engineer: American Constructioneers, LLC, Tampa, Fla.
Structural Engineer: Miller Structural Engineering, Inc Tampa, Fla.
Electrical Engineering / Lighting Design: Engineering Matrix, Inc., Clearwater, Fla
Bell Consultant: Christoph Paccard Bell Foundry
Contractor: Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc., Sarasota, Fla.
Project Cost: $390,000