Sarasota Welcomes CityLab Inaugural Class



At an open event last night in the McCulloch Pavilion Center, Center For Architecture Sarasota officials were joined by partners, donors and enthusiastic community members, all convening to celebrate the arrival of the University of Florida CityLab Sarasota and welcome the inaugural class. A satellite graduate program of the University of Florida School of Architecture, CityLab offers a two-year master’s program in the heart of Sarasota and at the nerve center of its architectural endeavors. With seven students comprising this first class, two international, each was awarded a scholarship at last night’s event.

“We are proud that the University of Florida has come to our community,” said CFAS chair Cynthia Peterson, amidst crows of “Gator Nation!” In the last 18 months, Peterson and other CFAS members and supporters have raised over $1 million for facilities, 315 members, $40,000 in scholarships and hosted 15 programs highlighting the art of architecture. But now, with students arriving and classes finally underway for the inaugural CityLab class, the next step begins, connecting fresh talent to the community. Amongst the many resources at CFAS available to CityLab students, an American Institute of Architects Florida Gulf Coast office is situated in the building, allowing students to develop a “symbiotic relationship” with the greater architectural community as they grow, said Peterson.

“They could have gone to many other places,” said Martin Gold, program director for CityLab, of the students coming in, whom he dubs pioneers. “This is a new experiment, but they want to be in Sarasota, they want to be part of this and they want to be the first class.” Wowed by the transformation of the building itself, once nearly abandoned, stuffed with dust and old print machines but now a gleaming gallery, Gold promised this was only the beginning. “We’re still growing,” he said, guided by the principle “How can we help Sarasota, and how can Sarasota help us.”

Of the seven students receiving scholarships last night, three come from UF—Christopher Fadely, Dan Johnson and Shane Lemay, a second-year graduate student and intern at Sweet Sparkman Architects – and one from Clemson—Olivia Ellsworth, interning at Solstice Architects. Two come to Sarasota from overseas—Gabriella Ebbesson arriving from Sweden and working with Fawley Bryant Architects, and Elena Nonino, hailing from Venice, Italy. Alan Meronek, a local currently working with the Manatee County Building Department, rounds out the opening class, enrolling in a one-year program with the intention to teach once he graduates.

“I fell in love with Florida,” said Nonino, who visited for an internship in Tarpon Springs and quickly added Florida schools to the list of many she applied to for graduate studies. “Even though it’s a new program, I thought this was the most exciting,” she said, drawn by both the modern approach and community-minded atmosphere. “The fact that it had a connection to the community will make my transition to the professional world much easier.” Beginning an internship with Guy Peterson Office for Architecture today, she looks forward to seeing how the professional environment operates. “I want to learn,” she said.

Receiving scholarships from community leaders such as Joseph Barbetta, Nathalie Warren McCulloch, Guy Peterson and more, each student was met with applause and excitement. “This is a project that’s going to go a long way because it’s reliant on the human capital,” said Sarasota County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo. “You’re going to see fantastic things out of this place and none of us will be surprised.”

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