The Future

03/24/09

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Florida Southern College and the Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

"...out of the ground and into the light, a child of the sun."
Frank Lloyd Wright describing work at Florida Southern College.

 

Having such a large collection of irreplaceable Frank Lloyd Wright structures has proved to be both a blessing and a curse for Florida Southern College.  The blessing is obvious, the world's largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright structures, the presence of which has helped to define the college's identity and provide international notoriety.  The curse is simply the ongoing Herculean task of continuously operating a vital and growing college while at the same time maintaining buildings and structures, many of which are 60 plus years old, in a condition and state that recognizes/acknowledges the tremendous legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.

It is important to bear in mind at all times that Florida Southern College is a living, breathing entity and its structures must fulfill the needs of the institution, its faculty and its students.  The Frank Lloyd Wright structures were built during a simpler time; before air conditioning and computers were necessities instead of luxuries.  Wright's buildings were built using Usonian principals for economy and efficiency.  The construction materials and methods were, if not radical, unique at the time and still are today.

All these conditions serve to present Florida Southern College with extraordinary challenges for the future.  Fortunately, the college is blessed with an administration that is aware of and planning to meet these challenges.  Following are some images that may be disturbing, but illustrate the nature of some of the challenges discussed:

 

Two views of moisture damage to a portion of the earliest Esplanades near Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shown right is a close up of sand-cast blocks in Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.  Moisture and age have caused some to crack and disintegrate.  The original blocks were not designed to repel moisture or to seal the building.  Remember the buildings were not air conditioned originally.  Redesigned replacement blocks are moisture resistant, but are made by a costly hand casting method.

 

 

During a recent renovation, the new blocks were used in the Polk Science Building as shown below.

Florida Southern College has a master plan that envisions the return of original orange groves along with other landscaping, renovations and restorations.  Currently underway is a project to restore many of the Esplanade structures.  Shown below is a section that was recently renovated including straightening and underpinning the foundations, an extensive, costly process.

A modest size college, FSC has a current enrollment of approximately 1,800 undergraduates.  With an endowment significantly less than Harvardian, maintaining the Wright buildings has and continues to be a financial challenge.  Fundraising is undertaken for specific projects, and participation is always welcome.  Go to the FSC website for current information.

This website is organized chronologically and by structure.  Follow the links on each page to go to the next or skip to the page of interest.

 

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This site was last updated 03/12/09

The content of this website is owned by William B Carpenter. All images and text on this site are the work of William B Carpenter unless otherwise noted. 

Copyright 2005  William B Carpenter - All rights reserved.  Historical images courtesy of Special Collections, Florida Southern College Library, Lakeland, Florida.  Some historical images are from The Interlachen, Florida Southern College Yearbook.  All rights reserved.