This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Carol MacDonald
Interviewee: John Carlson
August 4, 1992
M: This is Carol MacDonald interviewing John Carlson, director of Facilities Planning for
IFAS [Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences] and former director of the Office of
Planning and Analysis for the University of Florida. This is for the [Samuel P.] Ham
Museum of Art Oral History Project, 1992. [Today is August 4, 1992.]
Please tell me your full name, where you were born, where you went to school, and
how you came to the University of Florida.
C: I am John V. Carlson. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and [I] lived there with my
family until approximately age ten, at which time my father, who was in the graphic
arts business, was transferred by his company to Chicago, where we lived for about
two years. We then moved to Davenport, Iowa (in eastern Iowa), and lived there
through high school. [I] attended Iowa State University and received a B.S. degree
in urban design/urban planning.
At that point, immediately after graduation from Iowa State, I came to Gainesville,
Florida, to work for the city of Gainesville in the capacity of chief of the Current
Planning Division in the Department of Community Development. It was 1972 when
I came to Gainesville. I worked in various positions in community development for
the city for approximately five years.
In my capacity as a planner for the city, I got to know a lot of individuals around
Gainesville, including people at the University of Florida such as John Nattress, who
was the executive vice-president of the University of Florida when Robert Marston
was president. Prior to being in central administration, John was a professor in the
College of Engineering. The way I got to know John in my early years in Gainesville
is [that] he was chairman of the county planning commission for many years, serving
in an appointed volunteer capacity. I was a planner for the city, and on a courtesy
basis we [the City of Gainesville] provided professional recommendations to the
county on planning and zoning issues. At that time, in the early 1970s, Alachua
County did not have its own in-house planning staff. So that was how I got to know
In 1977, I left the city of Gainesville and moved to Illinois. For the second time in my
life, I lived in the Chicago area. I was the director of community development for a
fast-growing suburban community outside of Chicago called Bolingbrook.
I was in that capacity for only about a year and a half when I was called by the
University of Florida and asked if I would be interested in coming back to Gainesville
in a role at the University in the University's planning department. It would involve
campus planning and transportation planning, as well as project management. I
discussed it with my wife, and she thought it would be a good idea to come back to
Gainesville because she is a native of Gainesville. Anyway, we made that decision
and returned in 1978. I think my first position at the University of Florida
commenced around July 1978. At that time I worked in what was called the Office
of Planning and Analysis.
Now, you will hear as I go through this that the organization of how campus planning
and project management and construction management has changed over the
years at UF, but this is the way it was in 1978. The office had a director [named] Mr.
Gary Koepke. He was my boss at that time, but the office reported directly to the
president's office through the executive vice-president, John Nattress.
My role at the University at that time was, as I stated, involvement in the entire
process of campus planning. We were also charged with the responsibility of
managing all of the design and construction projects for the University. That
involved small projects [and] small renovations of a value of maybe $20,000 or less,
up through major new buildings [that were] multi-million-dollar projects.
We were in the role basically of being the owner's representative in the process. We
would be involved with developing the architectural program, selecting and
supervising the various design consultants (the architect, engineers, and any other
special consultants), determining the construction delivery method, and then
managing that process through construction until the building was turned over to its
user. So that was my role then, and I started in 1978 basically as sort of a campus
It was in approximately 1981 that I had my first involvement with the new art
museum. I do not remember the date it began exactly, but I do remember the event,
and that is when Gary Koepke and I went over [to the College of Fine Arts] and met
with Joe Sabatella, who was then dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Roy Craven,
who was then the director of the University Gallery, and [we] talked about a new art
museum. That was the beginning of our effort to write an architectural program for
An architectural program is a document that is, if you will, a recipe for the building. It
is a narrative and very conceptually graphic description of what the building is; what
it needs to be; a definition of all the spaces, [including] how big [they should be] and
how many people will occupy them; the spatial relationships of the various rooms in
the building; [and] something about the architectural style, if that is an issue. So it is
fairly complete description of what is needed in the building as a preface to actually
designing the building.
M: Was Mr. [Budd H.] Bishop [director, Ham Museum] involved in this also?
C: No. This was several years before Budd Bishop came to the University.
Programming the new museum was one of my project assignments in the Office of
Planning Analysis. About the same time there was a change in the name of our
office; it was changed from the Office of Planning Analysis to the Office of Facilities
Planning for the University of Florida. [The office was] at that time reporting to the
I went to work on developing a program that would describe the museum. Of
course, the user was represented primarily by the two individuals I named, Dean
Sabatella and Roy Craven, so the real guts of the program information came from
those two individuals. I put the information into program form that would be able to
be used by an architect.
I think it was in late 1982 or 1983 that this sort of concept, this dream of having an
art museum on campus, started to become a reality when the [Dr. David] Cofrin gift
occurred and was directed toward this need to develop an art museum on campus.
At that time it was intended for the museum to be administered under the College of
Fine Arts or within the College of Fine Arts. The museum would have been a
division of that college, if you will. In fact, it was very much part of the conversation
through the programming process where the building would be sited, because it was
intended to be part of the college program. It was determined that a site as close as
possible to the existing college facilities would be beneficial. Of course, the various
buildings that are assigned to the College of Fine Arts are all located on the east
side of campus, right along [SW] 13th Street at about 4th Avenue. The site that was
the most convenient to that location that was also large enough to accommodate a
building of this size was the [northwest] corner of 13th Street and Museum Road. It
was then, and is still now, a vacant area that contains a depression. It is
topographically an area that is lower than the roadways around it.
M: Did you feel that was an appropriate location?
C: In terms of its accessibility to the college, yes, that was probably the best location
that was available at that time to serve that need. It was a controversial site.
Students at the University at that time--this is the early 1980s--felt that it was a
taking of property that "belonged to them." It is an area that is a passive recreation
area adjacent to the tennis courts to the west and the Broward pool complex to the
northwest. It is an area that is used for throwing Frisbees, sunbathing, [and other]
non-organized, passive activities. But again, the strong need at that time to have
this formal and physical connection to the College of Fine Arts really superseded
that, and we went forward with the official process to approve that site for the
museum. That took place when we submitted the site for approval to what was then
called the Campus Planning Assembly, which was a group of faculty, administrators,
and students who met ...
M: From student government?
C: Student representatives were usually from student government, yes. The members
of that planning assembly were appointed by the president's office. So it was a
representation of faculty, staff, and students. That group did recommend approval
of that site to the president. [They felt that the location of] 13th Street and Museum
Road was appropriate for the museum.
I think what was significant to those of us involved in the project at that time was that
this was possibly the first capital project for the University of Florida that [would have
been] completely funded from private sources.
M: Generally projects are federally funded?
C: No. There is a funding source in the state of Florida called Public Education Capital
Outlay [PECO], which is the predominant funding source for educational facilities
construction in the state. That is K-12 through higher education. I do not want to
get into a long explanation of what that is, but most new building projects on this
campus and at the other universities were funded from that state funding source.
This museum, because of the Cofrin gift, was evolving in a much different way. It
was different at that time--the early 1980s. Private funding is a normal funds
supplement that we depend upon today, but ten years ago it was quite unique that
we would be able to have an entirely privately provided funding source to build a
new building on campus. So that gave us an opportunity that we would not normally
For state-funded projects there is a mandated process that one goes through to
select architects and engineers. It is under Chapter 287 of Florida Statutes, and it is
called the Florida Consultants Competitive Negotiations Act. It is a very detailed
process that one goes through to advertise and interview and select the architect
and engineer for a state-funded project. Well, this was not a state-funded project,
so we debated whether we should go through that process anyway or, since we
were not necessarily tied to that process because this was not state money, [if we
should] maybe look at a different approach. That is when the idea of a national
design competition evolved. Actually, I do not remember whose idea it actually was,
but I think collectively we came up with it as a possibility.
At that point I started looking around for a way that would help pay for conducting a
design competition. I learned, probably through Joe Sabatella, that the National
Endowment for the Arts would provide grants to conduct such design competitions
as part of their program in the area of architecture. I submitted a grant application to
NEA, and we were awarded a $25,000 grant to conduct a competition. It was quite
a complicated process. It was a very large competition.
M: I understand there were 508 registered participants.
C: We had 508 registrations, and of those 508, I think there were something like 278
participants who actually submitted a design for consideration.
Of course, the credibility and legitimacy for any design competition is heavily based
on the jurors who will be judging the submissions, so we put together a jury that we
thought would have the credibility to attract [a wide range of entries].
What I learned in the process is that very often there have been design competitions
where the jury was sort of stacked; it was sort of understood by who was on the jury
that a certain architect from a certain area of the country would be favored, or even
certain firms would be favored. So it was important that we picked a jury that had
the kind of credibility that would tell everyone that this was an open competition, that
we were really looking for the best design. [Do] you have the names of those?
M: Yes. I have Marc Jarocewicz.
C: Marc Jarocewicz was, at that time, dean of the College of Architecture.
M: I have Joseph Sabatella, dean of the College of Fine Arts; Roy Craven, director of
the University Gallery; Paul Spreiregen ... Was he an author for Florida Architects?
C: No. Paul wrote a major book on design competitions, so we put him on the jury to
tell everyone out there that we were serious about this and [that] we were going to
conduct this [competition] according to the rules that are commonly held in the
architectural profession. This guy literally wrote the book on design competitions
and is an authority on them, so we asked him to be on the jury, and he agreed.
M: OK. Then I have Randy Vosbeck.
C: He is an architect. He was in practice then. I do not know if his firm still exists. I
think his firm is in Arlington, Virginia. He is one that had competed in design
competitions in the past and had experience from that side.
M: Gary Koepke, director of Facilities Planning; Robert Weston, chairman of the
Department of Art; and Tom Messer, director of the Guggenheim Museum in New
C: That is correct. That was the jury. [George M. Notter, Jr., of the FAIA, was unable
to participate, so he was replaced by Randy Vosbeck.] I think we were on target in
appointing that jury; from the response that we got, [we could see that] people
looked at that group as a credible group and felt that this was going to be an open,
fair competition. [The NEA grant also provided credibility.] That is why we had 508
responses to our announcement. Those that responded were given very specific
rules, deadlines, and things like that. [They were informed with regards to] what
was to be submitted and when and in what format and what size and so on and so
on. Not to belabor that process, we went through a very tedious process of looking
at well over 200 designs.
The jury did finally pick the winning design from Tom Porter from Toledo, Ohio. Of
course, that was a site-specific design. It was designed for the 13th Street [at]
Museum Road site. It was a unique design because of the topography of the site
and the orientation. It was a building designed to be on that site and to respect the
pedestrian traffic patterns that exist, so it was a building for that site.
M: I have some pictures of it, and I also saw the model at Scott Sloan's office. [Sloan is
the director of the Office of Facilities Planning.]
C: That is it. Yes, he has the model that was done. The model was not required as
part of the design competition. He did that for us after he was selected as winner.
Of course, he won the first prize (which was $25,000), and he did collect that. I
would have to review my files to pinpoint that date, but according to the schedule
this should be about June 1985 when that winner was announced.
At that time we started the negotiation process with Porter. The competition was
just a way to select him. We still did not have a contract for him to proceed with the
design of the museum. The design that he submitted was nothing more than a
conceptual design for the museum. There was a lot more design work to be done
and preparation of construction documents and that whole thing.
Another thing that was happening at the University of Florida in this point in time, the
1985-1986 time frame, was that we were changing presidents. Marshall Criser
came in as the new president, as Robert Marston had resigned. I think this is
important to this whole issue because a lot of things were changing at the University
of Florida during this time frame, and some of these changes directly impacted the
Harn Museum project. [Criser took office September 1, 1984.]
M: Was this impact beneficial, or was it difficult?
C: I am going to explain what happened. As I said, we started into a negotiation
process with Tom Porter for his architectural services. I finished that process and
had a fully-negotiated contract and a fee established with him. We were ready to
execute the contract when I was advised that we should hold off on executing that
contract. It was not explained to me at that time why we were holding off. I had just
spent the last three years developing the concept of the museum programmatically
and getting this grant and conducting the competition. I had committed a large
percentage of my time personally as a staff member here at the University on this
project, so I was a little bit confused and admittedly dismayed when I was advised
by my boss: "Let's hold off right now. Let's not go ahead and sign that contract." I
did not know what was happening at that time. Marshall Criser was, at that point,
seated as president.
Something else was happening at the same time within our own office. Shortly after
Marshall Criser became president, my boss, Gary Koepke, who was director of
facilities planning, resigned, and I was appointed interim director. [We were] still
[working under] the reporting structure that we had before: our office reported to the
president's office through the executive vice-president, who was still John Nattress
at that time.
Well, what I found out probably ninety days after I was told to hold off on completing
the negotiation and executing the contract with Mr. Porter was that there was a
discussion going on in the president's office about a joint-use project. It was the
conception of the idea that maybe we ought to build the art museum in another
location where we could also develop some other "cultural facilities" that were
needed by the University, the community, or Santa Fe [Community College]. I was
not party to all of those discussions early on, but the result of that was that we would
look for a site [upon which] to build the Ham Museum, a major performing arts
facility, and a new exhibition building for the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Obviously, the site on 13th Street and Museum Road was not large enough to
accommodate anything except the art museum. So then I knew why this had been
put on hold. I was then charged with doing site analysis. [I was to look at sites] not
just on the campus of the University but around the community that I felt would be
adequate and appropriate for the development of such a complex.
As a sidelight here, it was understood, of course, that the performing arts building
would not be ours. That was something that Santa Fe Community College would be
developing on the site. The natural history museum, of course, was a completely
unfunded project, but it was hoped that money would be there through private
development efforts and possible matching funds from the [Florida] legislature.
Anyway, the only sure project we had in hand was the Harn Museum, with the
potential of bringing together enough money for the performing arts building,
because at that time Jon Mills was the state representative from this district and was
moving into a position of power and influence as speaker of the [Florida] House of
M: I have interviewed him, and we discussed his part of the project. [See UF208,
University of Florida Oral History Project. Ed.]
C: That Santa Fe project was to take what was a smaller academic
auditorium/performing space on the Santa Fe campus and expand it to a more-
significant facility through some additional funding that he thought he could deliver.
[Jon Mills's effort to secure that additional funding] was what was really driving this
thing. I spent several months doing site analysis. There was a major policy
committee appointed at that time [consisting] of University, community college, and
community leaders who were sort of serving in a decision-making role on this whole
project. If I remember [correctly,] some of the participants were Marshall Criser and
Al Alsobrook from the University. Al was vice-president for University Relations
under Marshall Criser. That is a position that President Criser created and Al had.
(John Lombardi changed that again, and that position no longer exists.) [Robert
Bryan was also a member.] Anyway, those were the representatives from UF.
Alan Robertson [as president of SFCC] represented Santa Fe Community College,
along with, I think, Bob Rowe, who was on their board of trustees or possibly the
chairman of their board of trustees at that time. A local attorney, Rod McGalliard,
was on this, I think. He is a practicing attorney here in Gainesville now, [although] at
that time he was a law partner with Jon Mills. I know Leveda Brown, who was then
and still is a county commissioner, was a representative as well. I am trying to
remember who represented the city of Gainesville. Anyway, this group was sort of
seated as a policy committee for making decisions about this "cultural complex."
M: In the meantime you are running around trying to ...
C: I have Tom Porter calling me constantly saying: "John, what is going on? When can
we execute this contract so I can get started? Is this a job that I have or not?" From
his standpoint, [the problem was that] architects can only take on so much work in
their office. When they think they have a job, they obviously cannot pursue other
work because they do not have the ability to produce the design and documentation.
So he was sort of caught in the middle of this thing, too. He was not pursuing other
work because he thought he had the Ham Museum project in the office, when as it
turned out he really did not.
Let me add another sidelight here. When Marshall Criser came to the University of
Florida, he reassigned the reporting of my office. Of course, after Mr. Koepke left, I
was interim director. I did not mention that I did seek and got the position as director
on a permanent basis. President Criser, instead of having my office report directly
to his office through the executive vice-president, shifted the reporting to the vice-
president for administration, who at that time was William Elmore. He did that
because he was no longer going to have an executive vice president. John
Nattress, who was in that position right up through the first year of the time Criser
was here, retired from the position and went back to the faculty of the College of
Engineering, and that position no longer existed. To this day it does not exist. So
my office was then reporting to Bill Elmore, who was vice-president for
administration. He was then my boss, and I was keeping Bill informed of everything
that was going on in this whole process. I was explaining that we had to do
something with Porter. [I was telling Bill,] "We cannot just let him hang like this and
then tell him at some later date: 'Sorry. We do not need you anymore. Good-bye,'
because we would have done him a disservice." So that sort of pushed the
decision. I said: "Look. Either we have to sign a contract with the guy or tell him we
are not going to," and they said, "Tell him we are not going to."
The whole picture had changed now because the funding for the Harn Museum was
the Cofrin gift plus some supplemental money from PECO. In other words, the
project had grown to a larger budget, and it was going to have some public money in
it, too. So that forced the process that I described before to click in through the
[Florida Consultants] Competitive Negotiations Act. There is really no way we could
assign Tom Porter to the project if it was any other project than the one that he had
competed for. The project had changed significantly; it was going to be on a
different site. [The] bottom line [was that] we said: "Mr. Porter, we are not going to
sign a contract with you. Thank you very much. You have the $25,000 first prize.
At such time as we advertise this project to select the architect again, we welcome
you to apply. But we cannot just assign you the project."
So that was happening at the same time I was out looking for sites to put this big
thing on. I went through a fairly formal site analysis on six or so sites around
Gainesville, including maybe one or two here on the main campus or the contiguous
campus. The site we landed on was the site, of course, that we have here at the
end of Hull Road at [SW] 34th Street. The site was then used as agricultural
research plots by various departments in IFAS.
A major player in this whole process was Bob Bryan, who was the vice-president for
academic affairs when Robert Marston was here as president. He retained that title
under Criser but was also given the added role of being the provost. Bob was a
major decision-maker in this whole process and was on the policy committee, along
with Marshall Criser and Al Alsobrook.
Anyway, getting back to the site issue, we landed on the site here on Hull Road.
IFAS agreed to relinquish its use of the property and was given some replacement
facilities elsewhere out of the project funds, so that freed up the site for use. Of
course, at this point the [concept for the] museum had grown. Along the way, I had
reprogrammed the building again, possibly for the third time. There was the original
program and then two iterations after that. Each time it grew a little bit we had to
redefine the program.
It was in this time frame--I think we are now in 1986-1987--that Budd Bishop came
on [as director of the Samuel P. Harn Museum]. Once the concept was nailed down
that the Ham Museum was going to be built [and that] it was going to be a major site
with the performing arts [center] and the future natural history museum, Bob Bryan
started recruiting its director. Of course, Budd was selected, and obviously he came
to Gainesville [in early 1987] while the building was still in conceptual form. It had
not even been designed yet. About the time the site was selected was when Budd
Bishop came on board, and Budd and I worked very closely together from that point
forward in the development of the master plan for the site and, of course, the
development of the design for the Harn Museum.
M: From what I understand, he had compiled quite a lot of information while he was in
Ohio about his ideals for the museum. [Bishop's previous position was director of an
art museum in Columbus, Ohio, and he worked on the design for the Harn Museum
for some six months before coming on board in Gainesville.]
C: Yes. He had never done a building from a blank sheet of paper before. He had
been involved in some museum expansion projects, but [not in a project of this
magnitude]. The concept of building a museum from the ground up was exciting to
everybody. For someone in this business--the design profession--it is viewed as a
once-in-a-career opportunity to be able to do something like an art museum. There
just are not that many of them built. It is sort of the epitome of what architects would
like to be doing. It is just part of the art in architecture, I guess.
Anyway, it was an exciting time for all of us to think about really starting over. At
one point, I was a little disgruntled about this whole thing because I had spent so
many years developing the previous concept which I felt very good about. I think we
had a good result of the competition. A great of deal of time, four or five years, was
M: Out the window.
C: But I was very excited about the new concept of the larger museum and the
opportunity to design a truly unique situation where potentially we would have these
three facilities on the same site, which would really be an asset for the University of
Florida and Santa Fe and the Gainesville community as a whole.
We forged ahead. We started the selection process again, except this time [we
went] through the state procedural guidelines. We selected a new set of consultants
for the project and proceeded to start with a master plan. We had this site on 34th
Street and Hull Road, which, I think, is about fifty acres of property.
M: Who were your consultants?
C: We selected a team. The prime architects were an association [of] Kha Le-Huu and
partners from Orlando and Jackson-Reeger architects here in Gainesville. [I will talk
about Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago later.] We proceeded
to start with a blank sheet of paper and master-planned the site.
M: Is this you and Budd Bishop?
C: Primarily Budd Bishop and I and the consultants.
At about this time, Scott Sloan joined my staff. I hired Scott. I was director of
facilities planning, and I hired Scott as a project manager to be on my staff. He
came here from Detroit, Michigan. He probably explained all that [in the interview
you did with him]. [See UF212, University of Florida Oral History Project. Ed.]
C: At some point after his arrival here, I had started getting Scott involved in this
project. Let's face it. I had a department to run, I had multiple other major building
projects going at the University of Florida that I had to manage. I had a lot of other
responsibilities, and this whole museum and performing arts thing was very
consuming of time. So when Scott got here, I started getting him involved to help
manage this thing. I was trying to spend less time personally on it so I could pay
attention to my other responsibilities. Scott gradually got very involved in the project
and became sort of the front line representative of my office with Budd Bishop and
the consultants. That did not happen like that [snapped fingers]. Scott did not walk
in the door to hear me say, "OK, Scott. Take this." There was so much background
and history and political knowledge that were necessary to make correct decisions.
I could not absolutely let go of it. I stayed very close for a long time, really until the
time I left the University. I was very hands-on with the project, even though I was
probably not making hourly or daily decisions. Anyway, we evolved through the
process of master-planning.
At the same time there was another issue that overlaid this thing: the big parking lot
that is down there on the site now that serves during the day as a commuter parking
lot and as the major parking during event times when there is an opening at the
museum or a performance at the performing arts building. Well, that was yet
another project. That was a DOT-funded project. It had some state dollars in it that
we were able to get to do a park-and-ride facility. The concept of that is to bring
commuting students to a point and bus them from that point all the way in to reduce
the volume and congestion of traffic right at the nucleus of campus. In other words,
it is a concept that is used in all urban areas from a transportation planning
standpoint where commuters drive to a certain point and then use some form of
public transportation from that point to their final destination. So that concept was
applied here. It works for that during the operation hours of the University. Also,
very significantly, it was placed in this location because we knew during off hours it
would not be demanded for student commuters and [yet] would be provide much-
needed parking for this cultural facility. So we were provided other funds that the
project did not have to pay for. That is a $1 million parking lot sitting there that the
Harn Museum funds or the performing arts building funds did not have to support.
So getting that developed overlaid this whole process, yet [it was] outside with a
completely different set of consultants. That was sort of running parallel with this
project but as a separate project.
M: Now, Scott Sloan detailed the process of installing utilities on the site. He said there
was a considerable problem with that and the funding for that. Then he went into
detail also about the core samplings and the site itself.
C: OK. Let's talk about utilities. First of all I want to mention another name as one of
the consultants: Walter Netsch. Walter was a consultant to the architects. Walter is
a big name in American architecture. He was a retired senior partner of SOM--
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, from their Chicago office--and really came out of
retirement, if you will, to serve as a consultant on this team.
We were able to get to Walter through Kha Le-Huu. Kha is a bright . That is
another little story. Kha was a graduate assistant working for me here at the
University when he was a student. He was a very top student here in the College of
Architecture. He graduated with very high honors and was immediately grabbed up
by SOM in Houston. [For] a kid getting out of school (really wet behind the ears) to
go to work in a design capacity for SOM in one of their major offices is a real
significant happening for a young man. Kha was an outstanding student and an
Anyway, through his SOM connections, Kha was able to bring Walter Netsch to the
team. I think Walter was significant in helping us in the master planning and the
early design aspects of the museum. It was a real trip for me because Walter was a
guy I studied about in school. I had read his books and stuff, and to actually be
working with the guy at that point in my career was sort of a high for me, as well. He
is a delightful man.
Anyway, there were some real tedious problems in developing the museum, but all
projects have problems. These are not unique to this project. It is part of the
everyday process we go through in designing and building major structures.
From the beginning, this project was really underfunded. We were trying to put
funds together from various sources and, with the help of Jon Mills, pull moneys in
from the legislature.
We were out here on a farm site. There were no utilities. We used outside
engineering consultants to help us determine what the cost of those utility
extensions would be. It turns out that the estimates that our engineers did were, in
most cases, low. The real costs of extending utilities out to the site and developing
a chilled water facility to provide air conditioning for this whole complex of buildings
came in higher than what they were estimated to be, so it put the whole project into
a budget crunch. That is not unique to this project. We deal with that in many,
We knew from the beginning that the soils on the site would be potentially
problematic. That is not unique, either. It is the nature of building in this part of
north central Florida. The western half of the campus is in one of the highest
potential sinkhole areas in the state. The potential for the development of sinkholes
is very high basically from where we are sitting all the way out to the west. This
whole area, with a center point about 34th Street and Archer Road and let us say
about a half-mile radius to a three-quarter-mile radius from that center point, is
mapped as a high-potential sinkhole area.
M: Great! [laughter]
C: So we knew that going in. A lot of structures have been built on it, and it is an
engineering issue. So during the design process we did a lot of additional soil
borings on what was defined as the footprint of the museum, and we found some
caverns. They were not sinkholes, but they were openings between layers of
different soil types or between soil and rock. There would be a void that had to be
filled with concrete or excavated and filled or whatever. We did probably four or five
times as many soil borings for that project than we would normally do for a project,
just because we knew of that high potential for problems.
We learned of some of the problems through those boringss], but when we actually
got into construction, as always happens, there were caverns there that we were not
able to detect with our grid pattern of penetration tests. There were change orders
that had to be paid for to resolve it. We had to pump grout down into the ground
and fill those caverns or excavate them out and refill them with suitable material or
whatever the engineering solution was.
I should say from a personal standpoint that right at the beginning of the
construction process for the Ham Museum, I resigned as director of facilities
planning and left the University of Florida. This was in January 1989. I had
accepted a position as director of educational facilities for the Barton Malow
Company. Barton Malow is a construction management firm based in Detroit,
Michigan, and has offices in several cities in the United States. I was brought in to
join the office here in Florida (in Sarasota). At that time, we relocated my family to
Sarasota. When it actually started construction, [however,] I was involved in the
selection of the construction manager [CM]. It was the Gilbane Company [of Rhode
Island] that actually constructed the building. Shortly thereafter, within six to twelve
months after Gilbane came on board as the CM, I left the University. That is, of
course, when Scott really took over. He became interim director when I left and
subsequently became director. Of course, he managed the project through the rest
of the construction process.
M: Would you please tell me about Gilbane Company and how you chose this
construction management [company]?
C: For all of our construction projects here at the University we have really two
processes--maybe three--that we can use to construct a building. The traditional
process that we use on probably 80 percent or more of the projects is a process
wherein the design and construction documents are prepared, and the project is put
out for bids. The low bid general contractor gets the project.
There are two other ways that buildings can be constructed. One is design-build,
where the design team, the architect, engineer, and contractor are under one
contract. I will not go into detail about that. That is very rarely used. It had been
used on only one project in the history of this University.
The other option, [and the one] that was implemented for the Ham Museum, is
called construction management. Instead of putting the project out for low bid from
any number of general contractors, we select a firm to manage the construction
under contract for us with a GMP, which is a guaranteed maximum price. You
negotiate a contract with selected firms, and they give you a guaranteed maximum
price. In other words, they guarantee to deliver the building within a certain time
frame at that price or less. If the building actually costs more than that when they
bid out the various components of the building to the trade contractors, it is their
problem. They have to pay it. If the project costs less than the guaranteed
maximum price, the way contract is written is that we enjoy those savings. In other
words, we get that money back.
The reason for using construction management on any given project may vary. In
the case of the Harn Museum, there were some factors that drove that decision.
[First,] we knew we were in a high-potential soil problem area, and we said, "Well, if
we are going to have problems, we would rather deal with them through the CM
process." I could teach a course on this subject, but the bottom line is that the
owner and the general contractor are on an automatically adversarial relationship.
The contractor has a contract to do a certain thing that is specified in the
documents--nothing more, nothing less--for a certain amount of money. A
construction manager is really more of a team member who is brought in more as a
consultant to work with the architects and the owner to deliver the project. Things
that go astray really can be worked out much more easily through that process.
Gilbane was one of several firms that was interviewed for the project (all these
things are done by committees that include University people, board of regents
representatives, and [Florida] Department of Education representatives), and it was
determined by the committee that Gilbane had the best team and the best capability
of doing the project. That is how they were selected.
So it was probably within six to twelve months after Gilbane's appointment when I
resigned, left the University, and really had no more official involvement with the
project. However, I did come back to attend the opening.
M: What did you think? What was your impression when you first saw the museum?
C: Well, I was always excited about the design. I loved it. In my opinion, good
architecture is going to be controversial. I do not think that a building that evokes no
emotion is a real success. If people can look at the building and say, "Yeah, that's
okay," [it is a failure, as far as I am concerned]. I think a good building is one that
people either dislike or like very much. It evokes some definitive, directed emotion,
not just complacency.
That building does that. That building was disliked by many in its design, use of
material, [and] the color. It is a very post-modern type of building that has a lot of
post-modern features. Obviously, [it is] a drastic departure from the style of
architecture that is used on the main campus. That was not accidental. This
building, again, was representing itself as much as a community facility as it was a
University building. It is on a remote part of campus that is totally separated from
the main academic campus by probably a mile in distance and could get away with
M: Scott Sloan mentioned that President Lombardi is not quite fond of the museum
C: I did not know that. I never heard that. But I think if you ask the people who were
involved in the review and approval of the design at that time, [you would learn that]
they knew it was going to be different, and they knew it was going to be
controversial. Budd Bishop was a major player in this with me, and we knew that it
was going to attract attention, [both] positive and negative. We felt that was the best
thing for the museum. My personal philosophy of design is that if we had done
something there to play around with some kind of replicated, updated Gothic design
to make it resemble something on the main campus in the modern style, it would
have been a joke. I think we would have been highly criticized certainly by the
professional community. I am sure there are people that would have loved to have
seen the building in red brick with some arch windows, but not me, [and] not those
involved in the process at that time. Certainly the design that evolved was reviewed
by the administration at that time. Marshall Criser and Bob Bryan and everybody
was involved. The administration of the University reviewed the evolution of that
design and was very fond of it.
Of course, what is shown in two dimensions sometimes looks different in three
dimensions. When you look at a drawing and then see it on the ground, sometimes
people are surprised. That is part of the process as well.
M: What was your reaction?
C: I liked the building. [But] because of the budget problems, some concessions had
been made in use of materials that were intended to be on the building originally,
and I think those were losses. All the windows, for example, are mill-finish
aluminum windows, and I think the original intent was for a more-distinct dark green
color framework in all the windows. It would have presented a much different, much
bolder image. There was more accent detail proposed originally. So there were a
lot of things that were in the original design that we approved that apparently were
lost during the construction process. Again, I was not here when most of those
concessions were made.
But I think the building is a good building. I think it does what it is supposed to do. I
think from the exterior it draws attention. It is not a building that you would drive by
and not notice because of some of the architectural features of the building.
From a functional standpoint I think it is outstanding. Budd and I worked very hard
to try to develop a floor plan that had a functional relationship within the building that
made it work well, and it does. [As] part of the process, Budd and I and Caroline
Richardson and others took several trips around the United States to look at other
M: Which museum do you think the Ham can be compared to?
C: It cannot be compared to any one; components of it can be compared to many. We
found the way natural light was used in the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth to be a
very positive thing, so we tried to find a way bring natural light in a controlled sense
into the galleries. I think in that case it is not as controlled as Budd would have liked
it. We found things [we liked] in the new Dallas museum in the back-of-the-house
portions, in terms of the way art is brought into the building, managed, handled,
photographed, [and] recorded. The whole process of getting objects into the gallery
and back out onto the truck was a very clean process. We also looked at the Amon
Carter Museum in Forth Worth. That is right in the same vicinity as the Kimball
We looked at so many. I think the point is that there is not one that we tried to copy.
We found things that worked well in almost all of them, and we tried to bring those
into the design and work them into the plan that we were developing. So I think if
you look at this museum from the staff standpoint, the building works wonderfully. I
think they will all say that. I am sure when any building is completed somebody will
say, "I wish we would have done something differently here." But generally it works
a lot more cleanly than some of the museums that we visited.
In terms of public perception, I think it is a success because it has a design that
draws attention to the outside, and when you enter the building it is subtle and quiet.
It goes away and lets the art predominate, and that is what it should do as well. So
I think it is a very successful building. The fact that the architecture is not fondly
viewed by some people in no way diminishes its success.
I spent a long time on it. The Harn Museum project consumed a great deal of my
time for almost the entire decade of the 1980s, which is unusual because the project
life on most projects is a much shorter duration. Certainly it is always a number of
years, but usually not eight or nine years of continuous involvement, like the Ham
Other projects I have been involved in managing at the University of Florida are
most of the new buildings that you see on campus that were done in the late 1970s
through the 1980s. When I first came here, we were doing the addition to the
College of Education, the Norman Hall addition. I did the addition to the law school,
Bruton-Geer Hall; [and] the new triangular building [that is] part of the College of
Business. The journalism building and the addition to the journalism building were
both projects that I managed when I was here. I was involved significantly in the
development of the engineering and science library, what is now called the Marston
Library and the Computer Science and Engineering Building. It is a huge building, a
235,000-square-foot building in the center of campus. [I also had a part in] the
addition to the Reitz Union, the development of student apartment housing, [the
student services building (Criser Hall),] and the development of athletic
improvements, [including] the stadium addition (south end zone, north end zone, sky
boxes), the baseball stadium, tennis stadium, [and] track stadium.
All of those projects evolved during the time I was in facilities planning during the
1980s, and probably several more. All of them were multi-year commitments, but
none of them was as long a duration as the Ham Museum, and probably none of
them were as rewarding as the Ham Museum because, as I said earlier, it is a
special once-in-a-career opportunity to work on an art museum. So it is very special
to me, and I do not regret anything that happened. As I said, I was dismayed about
the re-evolution of the thing at one point, but I think the result is very positive.