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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
M: This is an interview with Scott Sloan, director of facilities planning for the University
of Florida. Today is February 8, 1993, and this is for the Harn Museum of Art Oral
Would you spell your name, first of all, for the tape?
S: Scott Sloan.
M: And what is your position here at the University?
S: [I am] Director of Campus Planning and Construction Management.
M: Where were you born?
S: Where was I born? I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and lived there for
thirty-five years. I worked for a community college up there for ten years as a staff
architect and then moved down to Florida and have been working here ever since, in
M: Tell me a little about your family. Do you have any brothers and sisters?
S: No, I do not, as a matter of fact. I am an only child. My wife has two brothers and a
sister, and we ourselves have two children. We have a fourteen-year-old daughter
and a five-year-old son.
M: What did your parents do, your father and mother?
S: My mother was basically unemployed--she was a housewife--and my dad drove a
beer truck and delivered beer until he retired.
M: Tell me how you came to the University of Florida.
S: Basically, I worked, as I said, as the staff architect for a community college for ten
years in the Detroit area, and we had approximately a $110 million construction
program underway, where we built five campuses for the community college and the
administration building. The program was coming to an end, and my wife and I
decided we did not like snow anymore, so I started looking for a job in the South.
We had been to Florida; my wife's parents come down here in the winter. And I was
fortunate enough to get a job here at the University.
M: What did you start as?
S: I was a planning consultant, basically a project manager. In fact, that is when I did
the Harn Museum; that was one of the projects that I managed. I did that for several
years and then became director of the office.
M: Okay. When did you first come in contact with the Ham?
S: I came in contact with it after we had already received the state funding. I believe
there was a design competition held early on when the funding was solely going to
be private. I believe the budget at that time was going to be about $4 million, and
the site was over by Yulee Hall, over on [SW] 13th Street. Somehow, through
legislative initiatives, there was an idea put forward that there would be a cultural
complex funded, so the state decided to match the funds that were available for the
Harn Museum, which amounted to that $4 million with another $4 million from the
state, in addition to funding the Santa Fe Performing Arts building. When that
happened, [the University was unable to enter into a contract with the winner of] the
[original] design competition when it was held and only private funds were involved.
The building could have been built without going through the state's architect
selection process, but because state funds were included in the project, the architect
who actually won the competition and received the prize money [Thomas Porter, of
Ohio] was really not allowed to design the building. The site had changed, [and] the
program had been expanded now to an $8 million building, so then we went through
the regular selection process for architects and selected Kha Le-Huu and partners
and Jackson-Reeger as the firm [in Gainesville] to design the building.
M: So Thomas Porter was not chosen because he was not a Floridian?
S: Well, basically, yes, for two reasons. One is we were required to go through the
selection process if state money is involved, and it had not been done [with the first
competition]. Secondly, one of the main thrusts of the process is to hire Florida
architects. Now, Tom Porter did a joint-venture with another Florida architect and
submitted, but they were not selected. Again, although he had a very nice design--
in fact, there is a model of it right behind you there; that was the winning design for
the original museum--it is a different site, a different program. It is much smaller
than the building that we have now. So really it was like starting over. The new site
was selected by a committee made up of people from the University [and] people
from [the community].
M: Do you know who was on the committee?
S: I could not name the people. It was a large committee. It was one of those kind of
committees that probably was totally unworkable but somehow managed to figure
out a few sites they wanted to look at. There were representatives from Santa Fe
Community College, representatives from the community, [and] I think a
representative from the Florida Arts Council. It was a large committee, and they
decided to look at a site not just for an art museum but for this cultural complex.
There were several sites that were recommended on campus. I do not recall if the
site selected was one of them. I do not really think it was one of the sites we
originally proposed, mainly because of the utility issues, the lack of utilities. But it
was the one that was selected because of reasons of visibility and access. So that
is how it ended up where it is right now.
M: So you had problems right from the start with the site. Could you talk about those a
S: Yes. The site, again, was selected by a committee, which is probably, in my
opinion, usually the wrong way to do most things, but committees generally rule at
any university. No one really did any site investigation in terms of the soils [or] the
availability of utilities. We knew that utilities might not be near the site, but we did
not realize they were as far away as they were. The site was selected purely on the
basis of access and visibility. When we started to look into the site itself, we realized
that there was no electrical service to the site, or at least there was not adequate
electrical service to support the buildings that were proposed there. There was no
chilled water, there was no sewer line. So all of that caused us some difficulties in
terms of funding.
Some of the project budget, as did budgets from the entomology building, which is
nearby, and the Florida Museum of Natural History and the [Center for] Performing
Arts building, had to be put into this pot of money to fund the utilities. When we got
into investigating the site for construction, we knew from building the entomology
building that there might be some cavities underground, [some] potential sinkhole
problems, and indeed there were on that site, so we did spend some additional
money filling cavities and making the soil stable enough to build a building on.
Again, because nobody really looked at those issues when they were looking for the
site, it happened. I mean, it was kind of a done deal. By the time we were ready to
work there, we could not really propose that it be moved elsewhere.
M: I have this project schedule. Take a look at it and tell me if you went by that
schedule or if there were a lot of delays.
S: No, we did not [adhere to the schedule]. We ran into delays throughout the project,
a couple of them at the very beginning dealing, again, with the site conditions, with
the sinkholes, and there was expansive clay also on the site that had to be removed,
which is pretty common on most of our construction sites. Then we ran into some
problems with getting the chilled water from the chiller plant on time. In fact, I
believe we delayed the opening of the museum by about eight or nine months. I
believe they were originally shooting for a February 1990 opening, and we
suggested that we would have the facility completed, I believe, by March or the
beginning of April. There was some discussion of trying to open the museum before
the semester ended, and everybody kind of left town, and we convinced the director
and the staff that it would be to their benefit to complete the building and then
maybe have three or four months to move in and open in the fall. I think we
convinced them to do that, and it probably worked out better, because the way the
schedule was looking we would have turned the building over to them, and they
would have had like three or four weeks to get the exhibits installed and get the
building open. I do not think that would have been adequate time. So it did delay
the opening until the fall of 1990.
M: The site problems were the main [reason for the delay]?
S: Yes, the site problems at the beginning, and then getting the chilled water plant
completed on time. Then we ran into some problems with one of the contractors on
the site [who] did some poor work in the foundation work, and we had to remove
foundations and replace them. So it was slow going at the very beginning.
Once those issues were resolved the building went quickly and very well. The
chilled water delayed us a bit in putting in all the wood flooring because we could not
do that without humidity control. So we did slip in the schedule and really came to
some delays. But I really think in the long run we probably ended up being better
off, or at least I think the museum people did, because I do not think there was ever
adequate time planned for the installations. We were supposed to be finished in
November of 1989. I guess they were looking to having three months to install and
open. But that was very optimistic.
M: Tell me a little about the architect, Kha Le-Huu, and how you found him and who he
was associated with.
S: Kha is a graduate of the University of Florida; he was one of their outstanding
[College of Architecture] students, and apparently he won numerous scholarships
and design awards. He went on to work for a very large company, Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill. I think he was in their office in Houston for a number of years as a
chief designer. Kha came back to Florida and opened his own office, and [he] put
together a team to go after this project. When we advertised we had numerous
teams that were put together. A lot of them were Florida architects who were in a
joint venture with well-known design architects from around the country. Kha put
together a team that involved himself [and] Jackson-Reeger, some local architects
that would provide the technical capabilities for the project. Kha would design it.
They also had a fellow by the name of Walter Netsch on the team originally. Walter
was a retired partner from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill who had been a designer
there for a number of years. Walter was an educator and had designed several
museums himself and was involved in a lot of site planning issues. He was in on the
project early on, during the site planning. Then when we started to get involved in
the actual design of the museum, I think there was a little clash of egos between the
young designer and the old fellow who had all the experience, and Walter bowed out
of the project. He decided he did not want to be associated with it anymore, I guess
because it was not going his way. Kha was not getting along with Walter because
Walter did not like his ideas, so Walter left early on in the project, I would say.
The resulting design of the building is really a combination of both Walter's and
Kha's schemes. It is neither one nor the other. I think it is a real good combination
of their two proposals.
M: You had some input into that also, did you not, into designing the rotunda?
S: Yes, I did. I added the rotunda. Basically what happened was we were really going
nowhere fast with the designs, and they were going kind of in parallel paths. I
basically sat down and got the designers in one day and showed them what we
really wanted and showed them how we could combine Kha's idea for the galleries
with the central gallery and the peripheral galleries, where you could circulate
around them, and Walter's idea of kind of segmenting the building, where you would
have the auditorium and the public space and then the administrative space in a
more linear module by adding the rotunda. It was kind of space I stole from the
board's formula--they called it circulation space--that we were able to add, and it
became another gallery. By adding that space we were able to link up the
administrative areas, the auditorium, and the service areas with the exhibit halls. So
it was kind of fun. There were a lot of hands that played a part in the final design of
the building as it is now.
M: Who were the contractors, and where were they from?
S: We did this project as a construction management project, and we used Gilbane
Building Company [of Rhode Island], which had an office in Orlando. We selected
them rather than bidding. We select construction managers similar to an architect--
we have interviews, and we pick them based on their ability to do the job. They had
done some past projects at the University and had an excellent track record. They
are a national firm. They gave us a guaranteed maximum price that was within the
budget, and we went with them.
M: What problems did you have with the building? Did you redo anything while it was
S: The building itself, other than the foundation problems that we had where we had to
tear out some foundation in one foundation wall and replace it, really went fairly
smoothly. I cannot recall any major changes in the building as it was constructed.
Of course, there were minor odds and ends that we changed and took care of. I
think some of the office layouts were changed as we were putting the building
together. But the galleries basically stayed intact, the service areas in the lower
level stayed the way they were planned, and the main lobby and the auditorium
pretty much were the same. We did not have to make a lot of changes in the
building as it was being constructed.
M: Were there any special areas? Was there not a skylight that was covered over?
S: Yes. The original proposal for the building had skylighting and a lot of glass in the
ends of the lobby. The changing exhibit gallery in the center of the building has a
clear story. That was always planned by the architect to bring light into the space,
and it went ahead in the design. I cannot recall exactly when we realized that the
media exhibits that were going in there would preclude the use of natural light in the
galleries, although not a lot of natural light is certainly going to come through a clear
story. The architect originally talked about some kind of operable panels outside the
building to seal off that clear story enough to exclude natural light, but I think the
budget precluded us ever from doing that, so what we ended up doing was using
some basically metal roofing panels that are placed in the structure below the
skylight and block it off. If an exhibit ever goes in there where they would want
natural lighting, we can just go up and remove those, so you can have the option of
having the skylight open. But that did become kind of a controversial item after a
M: Were you able to stay within the budget? Was that difficult?
S: It was probably one of the more innovative budgeting problems I have ever run into
on a project. The budget was very, very tight from the very beginning. We had a
minimum contingency, which is extra money we allow for unforeseen problems, and
we spent almost all of that contingency in the first couple months of the project
because of the site conditions I talked about earlier where we had to pump grout into
the ground to fill cavities [and] we had to remove expansive clay. From then on it
was very tight in terms of keeping the building within the budget. The construction
manager was very helpful in working with us. They had a contingency built into their
price, and wherever he could he would spend that money.
But inevitably we had to take Mr. [Budd] Bishop's furniture money away from him. I
think he had about $180,000 or $200,000 set aside for furnishings. What we did
was transfer that money to the building budget, and then he was able to use interest
money that was earned on the gift to buy his furnishings. Fortunately there was in
excess of $200,000. In fact, I believe he took $200,000 of it, and we used it to cover
additional expenses for the utilities. Then part of that money went to create his new
furniture budget. So we were fortunate that we had that money available.
In fact, the board has changed the rules since then. What we did basically was we
had the $4 million gift and the $4 million of state money, and we put the $4 million of
gift money under [University of Florida] Foundation control. They kept in an
account, and it accrued interest while we spent the $4 million of the state money
first. So our money stayed around and accrued $400,000 or $500,000 worth of
interest. Then we spent that money, and then we had the extra money left. They do
not let us do that anymore. Now we have to spend it in equal amounts, and they
control it a lot more closely. So we were fortunate in that there was that money
available, because it would have been very difficult to complete the building--or at
least have furniture in it--if we had not had the extra funds.
M: Now, the parking lot was a separate grant.
S: Yes. The parking lot came about in an odd way. It was not a University project.
Again, this whole complex was legislatively mandated and creatively put together.
The parking lot was $1 million allocated to the Department of Transportation to build
a "trial" park and ride lot for the University, which we just so happened to locate
where the Museum and the Performing Arts building would be, knowing that in the
evening that lot would be empty and we could use it for functions. During the day it
would be used by students. So that was really a DOT project, and they built the lot
and did the improvements to widen Hull Road to support the complex. So that was
kind of interesting how that came about. The only parking we paid for was the
parking that is right adjacent to the museum, the meter parking and some of the staff
The power lines also [were not paid for out of the museum budget]. People
probably do not realize that those beautiful concrete poles that carry all the power
lines were placed there by Florida Power, and they paid for half the cost of those,
M: DOT paid for them?
S: No, Florida Power paid for those. We told them that we really could not have those
two sets of wooden poles which you can see farther down past the parking lot. That
is what continued across where the museum was not. Not only would they have
been unsightly, they would have interfered with our planning of the building. We told
them we wanted them to put their lines on single poles and span them as far as they
could so that we would not end up with a line of telephone poles along the site, so
they designed those large concrete poles. I think there are only three or four of
them, but there are only two actually next to the museum. And they paid for half the
cost also to help us with the project. So as I said, it was an interestingly funded
project, and keeping track of the budget was an endless task.
M: Who did you work with mainly while you were working on the Harn?
S: The person from the museum?
M: Well, who was your staff? Who did you work with closely?
S: That was me. I was the project manager. I did it all myself from this office. Then
we relied on the architects--Kha Le-Huu and Budd Reeger and Dave Jackson--and
the construction manager. I mean, there was a whole cast of people. But in terms
of managing the project, that is kind of a solitary thing that we do. We still operate
that way. Our project managers are basically responsible for each of their own
projects. We have some office support. We now have a business manager who
tracks the budgets. We did not have one back then.
From the Museum's side, basically we worked with Budd Bishop. He was kind of
the only person there; he was the only staff member at that time. They had kind of a
one-person committee. Then there were some of the donors. I think Caroline
Richardson was involved in some of the reviews. It was pretty much Mr. Bishop's
guidance that gave us the data we needed to develop the building.
M: Was this the first project like this that you had worked on?
S: The first museum. I have not done one since. They do not happen very often. But
really, you hate to say it, but a building is a building. I mean, you approach each
project the same way, and you rely on the various experts in the different fields to
provide their input to help the project along. But it was no different than doing the
entomology building or any of the other ones. It just had some unique funding
problems that did not exist before, and we had those utility problems, which
generally do not happen with most projects. We try to plan the siting of a project to
correspond to utility growth, and we could not on that one because, again, a
committee sited it and really did not look at all of the details prior to selecting the
site. That kind of put us in a position where we were playing catch-up for a while.
But it really was not that much different than most other projects.
M: I thought that since it was an art museum it would bring out your artistic flair.
S: No. I do not know. [laughter] I try to do that with every project. Again, we try to
pay as close attention to quality on every project that we can. We knew because
the budget was so limited that a lot of the materials on the interior were basically
going to be dry wall. We were not going to be putting in marble other than on the
floors. We were not going to be using materials that are hard to work with but have
a very nice detailed finish. We were using dry wall. There is a lot of detail into the
dry wall that was critical to making it look very nice on the inside, and that was one
area that we really worried about. I think the construction manager made a point of
getting an excellent dry wall contractor. If you are familiar with construction in other
parts of the country and then come into Florida, they cannot do dry wall in Florida. I
mean, you see the houses always had that rough kind of texture on the walls
because they cannot do a smooth finish. This building required very good dry wall
work with smooth finishes, and we were really lucky in that respect. What we did
was we concentrated a lot of our efforts in getting that kind of quality into it, which
you might not have to do on some other projects.
The other area that was really critical that we did not have a lot of money to spend
on--the budget was there, but not what you would have at other museums--was for
the air handling system and the environmental control systems. I think the
engineers did an excellent job of designing a very simple system that works very
well, and I think the museum staff can now tell you that it is an excellent system in
terms of maintaining humidity and temperature control. Those were kind of key
elements that we had maybe to concentrate a little bit more on than we would on
other projects. So that made it a little bit different.
M: I have a bad note. I was there one day when it was storming, raining, and there
were some leaks. There were two columns in the lobby that were showing leakage.
S: Yes. They still leak. There are several leaks in that building we are still trying to fix.
In fact, we had a consultant out just a couple of weeks ago looking at the leak in the
basement [and] the leaks on the columns, and we are looking at ways to fix them.
The column leaks seem to be just architecturally-detailed poorly. They were
constructed exactly as they showed them, but when you get a blowing rain it blows
in through those light fixtures, and they leak. The leak in the basement appears to
be a problem of the water proofing not being installed properly. We will get them
resolved. It sometimes takes a while. I know the tetrahedron used to leak, too, at
the very beginning of the project, but that was resolved.
M: Was there any difficulty with the tetrahedron? Was that difficult to install?
S: No, not at all. It went up fairly smooth, considering it is an odd shape for a
construction piece of a building. We did not have any problem. They really did not
have any difficulties with anything on the project once we got past the foundations.
We actually had a sinkhole open up in the basement before they put the slab down,
so there were a lot of problems early on that fortunately disappeared as we got the
building out of the ground and started putting the structure up.
M: So how long did it take you from start to finish on this project?
S: It was about two years. Probably longer than that from the very beginning till when
they actually moved in. It was probably more like three years [when you take into
consideration] selecting the architect. That is pretty common. It usually takes three
to four years when you start a building from programming to selecting the architect
to doing the documents and then bidding and constructing.
M: Can you list some of the other projects you have been involved in on the campus,
some of the buildings?
S: Sure. I did the entomology building, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts
complex there. I did the Micro-Kelvin research building for physics. I did the three
most recent parking structures. These are the ones I managed myself directly. Now
that I am the director I am responsible for all of them, so any buildings that go up I
have kind of ultimate responsibility for. As far as we have gone with the [Florida]
Museum of Natural History, that has been my project and still is. It is kind of waiting
for funding, but up through schematic design I worked on that one.
M: Will that design be similar to the Harn and to the Performing Arts Center? Will it
S: Yes, it will complement them. In fact, the proposed material they are looking at on
that building right now is like a coquina stone, which is a very light buff color very
similar to what I call the stucco finishes, the Dryvit finish on the Museum and the
stucco on the Performing Arts building. It is a huge building. I mean, the total
building once it is completed will be quite large. I think they are only planning on
trying to get Phase I funded, which is probably a little bit smaller than the Ham
Museum is. That is going to be a neat project. That whole complex will be very nice
once it gets completed, but it is just getting it there. I mean, all the years they have
been waiting to raise money for the natural history museum is too bad. It would be
nice if a donor wrote a check today, but so far there has not been a lot of activity.
Right now on the campus we have about twenty-six projects that are ongoing. We
completed the student apartment housing [New Residence Facility] and are starting
another apartment housing project. We did the Criser Hall Student Services building
[and] the renovation of Floyd Hall. Right now we have the renovation of Leigh Hall,
the chemistry building which is in the National Register of Historic Places. That
project is underway. We are going to be building a new engineering building and a
physics building. There is a new teaching hospital at the vet school that we are just
completing, and we are going to be starting construction in probably August on a
research addition to that building. A microbiology research building is going to be
underway shortly in the southwest part of campus. Diagonally across the street
from the Harn Museum, kind of on the top of the hill across Bledsoe [Drive], east of
Bledsoe and north of Hull Road, is going to be a student recreation building that
construction will start on in the next couple weeks. So we are pretty busy. There
are some other projects that are being targeted for the southwest part of campus.
M: Very busy. So what do you think about the Ham, now that it is all completed?
S: I like it. I think aesthetically it is a very nice building. Of course, that is a matter of
opinion. I know a lot of people who do not like it at all, the exterior. I think it is
almost unanimous with people I have talked to that they love the inside and the way
the building is laid out and the way it works as a museum. They think it is very
elegant, and it is very simple, easy to understand, that the exhibits look very nice in
there. I think it works very neat as a museum. The exterior is a matter of opinion.
Some people do not like stucco. Some people think it should have been brick.
Some people just do not like the style. But I think that is probably what is good
about architecture. I mean, if everything looked liked McDonald's it would probably
make people happy, but it is nice to have things to be a little more controversial. So
I suppose since artwork is generally controversial, it is nice that the building is, too. I
think that that is probably a credit to the architect and everybody involved. It
certainly is not a boring building, although it is very functional.