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Architect creates 'wearable building' for Gasparilla 5K

Patrick Thorpe tries on the frame work for his costume of the Rivergate Tower, aka The Beer Can Building, at International Sign Company where the framework was fashioned. Thorpe, a local Tampa architect has had built a replica costume of the Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa. He will be wearing the costume and running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic.
Patrick Thorpe tries on the frame work for his costume of the Rivergate Tower, aka The Beer Can Building, at International Sign Company where the framework was fashioned. Thorpe, a local Tampa architect has had built a replica costume of the Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa. He will be wearing the costume and running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic.
Published Feb. 20, 2015

TAMPA — To bring architecture back into the community conversation, local architect Patrick Thorpe will run the Gasparilla Distance Classic on Saturday wearing a scale model of Tampa's Rivergate Tower.

The iconic building, also known as the "Beer Can Building," at 400 N Ashley Drive, is Tampa's only round tower and overlooks the Hillsborough River and Kennedy Boulevard.

Thorpe's costume is 10 feet tall (about double his height of 5 feet, 10 inches) and 3 ½ feet in diameter. It includes a ballast in the bottom section for balance. The frame of the cylindrical replica is aluminum and will be wrapped in a digitally printed vinyl fabric.

His attention to detail makes this project far from being just a costume. The model will have a screen for Thorpe to see through and enough space for movement, but he doesn't want racegoers to see him.

"I want people to see a building running the 5K down Bayshore, not just a person wearing a costume," he said.

It will be his first time running a 5K race, but Thorpe, 30, is prepared for the challenge. He's been a runner since high school and now bikes at least 10 miles a day.

But why would anyone want to run 3.1 miles wearing a replica of a building?

"Architecturally, there's a lot to it," he said. "And at any point during the race, you can see the building from Bayshore."

Thorpe said he drew inspiration from his passion for architecture and the value of the Rivergate Tower and Bayshore Boulevard to Tampa. A native of Miami and an Eagle Scout, Thorpe also sees this feat as bringing himself closer to the community and establishing a sense of citizenship.

Now working for Jerel McCants Architecture in Ybor City, he said his co-workers have been supportive in his endeavors to become a "wearable building." Thorpe has also gained support from other architects in the community, including friend and former coworker Greg Glenn with BDG Architects in Tampa.

Glenn describes Thorpe as "bright, motivated, and ambitious" and is glad Thorpe is seizing the opportunity to bring architecture to the forefront of people's minds.

"I think his idea of running in the Gasparilla 5K in a building replica is great," Glenn said. "Choosing Rivergate Tower, which in my mind is the best modern icon in Tampa Bay, is a perfect choice."

Simply running 3.1 miles can be a challenge, let alone running those miles in a building replica double your height. Thorpe has factors to consider like wind, controlling and bearing the weight of his costume and being considerate of other runners.

Though he didn't inform the directors of the Distance Classic of his plans, executive director Susan Harmeling said no rules exist to prevent it.

"Runners are pretty respectful of those around them and thus, we've never had an issue," Harmeling said, noting to date the race has had runners dressed as firemen, dogs, pirates, bananas and Star Wars storm troopers.

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Though not the first architect to wear a building, Thorpe hopes he is not the last. Maybe next year he won't be the only building running down Bayshore.

"Fashion is a statement; architecture is no different," he said.

For more information on the Gasparilla Distance Classic, go to tampabayrun.com or call (813) 254-7866.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com.

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