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S.251 through S.258 –Florida Southern College,

“Child of the Sun” Campus,

Johnson Avenue at Frank Lloyd Wright Way (formerly McDonald Street),

Lakeland, Florida

 

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

 

As is well known, the college campus is the largest collection of FLW buildings anywhere.  To help save costs for the cash-strapped college, students helped construct several buildings.  The use of native materials in Florida meant that the bricks were made of limestone, sand, water, and crushed seashells.  They were then baked in the sun.  One of the few non-native materials selected was copper to line the Esplanade roofs.

 

Any visit should begin in the visitors center in the William M. Hollis Exhibition & Seminar Room, located in the original library designed by Wright.  The visitors center includes exhibits of Wright models, drawings, and furniture, as well as a gift shop.

 

Wright designed 18 buildings.  Depending on how you count them, between 7 and 13 were built.  Six were unbuilt, but one eventually came to life as a new exhibition and visitors center.  Three seminar buildings have been combined into a single building, and the Administration Building is actually two separate buildings connected by a short walkway.  Credit as a “building” is also given to the Esplanades (a 1.5 mile series of covered walkways) and the Water Dome, a reflecting pool. 

 

Typical for a Wright project, furniture was also designed by the architect.  Students built the furniture in their woodshop and in sewing classes.  Only the Danforth Chapel continues to use the original furnishings.  Original examples from other buildings are shown in the visitors center exhibition hall. 

 

Much of the construction was undertaken during the war years.  Female students bore the brunt of the project as many of their male classmates served the nation.  In exchange for their hard work, though, students received free or discounted tuition.  I suppose one of the amazing aspects of this project was that Wright would allow his control over detail to yield to Dr. Spivey’s need to build his campus with amateur labor.  Only through such uncharacteristic compromise do we have the opportunity to view this masterpiece today.

 

There are other buildings on campus not designed by Wright, although some pay homage to the Master.  At least one has caused outright confusion: the 1968 library (designed by Florida architect Nils Schweizer, a student of Wright’s).  The 1968 library bears the same name as the original 1945 structure Wright designed.  All of the Wright buildings are within easy walking distance of each other, and are located in the northwest corner of the college at the corner of Johnson Avenue and Frank Lloyd Wright Way (formerly McDonald Street).  A self-guided tour map is available in the visitors center.

 

Photographed in 1995 and February 2010. 

 

The entire college project was assigned Opus number T3805.

 

 

 

TIMELINE

 

1883 – Florida Southern College founded

 

1938 – Frank Lloyd Wright is approached by college President Ludd Spivey.  Wright begins designing the “Child of the Sun” campus, with 18 structures; most are eventually constructed.  Work begins with the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.

 

1941 – First building completed: the Pfeiffer Chapel

 

1940-1941 – Second “building” built: the three Seminar Buildings

 

1941-1945 – E.T. Roux library construction; Esplanade construction begins in 1941.  Esplanades would be added through 1958 as new Wright-designed buildings were built.

 

1942-1952 – Construction of Industrial Arts Building

 

1945-1946  – Benjamin Fine and Emile E. Watson Administration Buildings construction

 

1948 – Water Dome completed; it would later be demolished, and then rebuilt

 

1953-1958 – Construction of Science & Cosmography Building

 

1954-1955 – Danforth (Minor) Chapel built

 

1968 – New library is built, and the Water Dome is demolished to make way for a pedestrian plaza

 

1992 – Visitor Center opens in the former E.T. Roux Library

 

2007 – restored Water Dome re-opens

 

2010 – Ceremonial groundbreaking for new visitor center in a new structure to built using one of FLW’s unrealized designs for the campus, a faculty residence  LINK TO NEWS ARTICLE

 

2013 – Visitor center opens

LINKS TO PHOTOGRAPHS OF BUILDINGS

 

The buildings each have their own separate pages (including pages for interiors).  Click on the description or the photo to go to those websites:

 

 

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S.251 – Pfeiffer Chapel

 

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S.252 - Library

 

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S.253 – Seminar Buildings

 

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S.254 – Industrial Arts Bldg.

 

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S.255B & C – Administration Bldgs.

 

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S.256 – Polk Science Bldg.

 

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S.257 - Espalanades

 

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S.258 – Danforth Chapel

 

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S.255A - Water Dome

 

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S.251a – Faculty Housing – built as

Visitor Center

 

 

 

A few motifs are repeated in the Wright-designed buildings: 

 

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Look closely – the cutouts are imbedded with art glass

 

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Wooden mold for making bricks, as seen in visitors center exhibit

 

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The columns’ design is based on the orange trees that once dotted central Florida

 

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Two future architecture buffs enjoy a moment on the Wright-like plaque donated by the college’s 1956 senior class

 

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Simplified map to FLW-designed buildings on campus

 

Note: many buildings in this area are not designed by Wright; the most commonly mistaken building

is the newer Roux Library, located directly north of the Water Dome. The actual library designed by Wright

– the original Roux Library – is southwest of the Water Dome and is circled in yellow on this map.

Visitor parking is entered from Johnson Avenue (a one-way street).

 

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Revised 08/19/2017

 

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