HOW MANY UNBUILT WRIGHT DESIGNS?
It is traditionally and commonly stated that Frank Lloyd Wright designed 18 structures for Florida Southern College. Only 12 were built – but depending on how you count them, it might be only 7 structures. Since we have some confusion about how many were built, I would like to inject some confusion about how many were designed! Plans at varying stages called for around three dozen buildings, dominated by as many as 20 faculty homes (although they would not each bear unique designs – they would use common designs).
In a letter dated September 12, 1940 to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, College President Dr. Ludd Spivey stated that the Pfeiffer Chapel was nearing completion and three seminar buildings were under construction. In addition, he stated,
The following buildings have not been constructed but are all designed by Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright.
Administration Manual Arts
Theatre Child Culture Blgs.
Library Swimming Pool &
Music Bath House
A letter from Dr. Spivey in March 1941 to a correspondent in Kentucky mentioned that there were 14 buildings under Wright’s direction.
We know that other buildings mentioned by Dr. Spivey were built (such as the Library and two administration buildings). But even Dr. Spivey’s list became incomplete over time. The following is my limited research into the unbuilt FLW designs at Florida Southern College. Keep in mind that some may have been “planned” but never designed.
Auditorium – A sketch of the proposed auditorium appears in the FSC archives, including their on-line collection. link to drawings in college archives
Amphitheatre – to be located on the shores of Lake Hollingsworth at the southern end of the campus (also see the master plan drawing below – see Music Building entry). The main portion of the amphitheatre was to be on land, but a circular walkway extended into the lake and surrounded a pool. See the separate drawing below, also from the FSC archives and copied into the Library of Congress collection. The MOMA letter refers to a couple projects that could have been represented by the Amphitheatre plans: a “theatre” (this could have referred to other buildings that contained a theatre, such as the theatre-in-the-round at the Industrial Arts Building) and “swimming pool & bath house,” which appear to be located at the left of the sketch below.
Amphitheatre aerial drawing
Child Culture Buildings – Mentioned in the MOMA letter; I have no information on the nature of this building or whether it was more than one building (since plural “buildings” was used in the letter).
Home Economics Building – Many references include this with the Industrial Arts (Ordway) Building. Spivey’s letter to Wright on May 28, 1940, refers to the two in the plural, indicating that the Home Economics Building likely was intended as a separate structure: “I would like for us also, [sic] to begin the Industrial Arts and Home Economics buildings. When could we have those plans?” In a 1942 letter, Spivey thanks Wright for the plans. As it stands today, the Ordway Building is actually multiple buildings connected by roofs and walkways. It may well be that the Home Economics Building was combined into this final format.
Manual Arts Building – although mentioned in the MOMA letter, I have not determined with certainty whether this is one of the built structures by another name.
Music Building – to be located along Johnson Avenue. That area is currently occupied by a parking lot and parts of the current music building, fine arts building, and a theater. It is shown on the master plan below, and was mentioned in the MOMA letter in September 1940.
This drawing was contained in the FSC archives and was copied by the Library of Congress for inclusion in its “Historic American Buildings Collection” (“HABS”). It is listed by the Library of Congress as the “accepted master plan drawn in 1957.” It includes the Music Building and the Amphitheatre. Note its compass orientation – north is to the left.
Faculty housing – Dr. Spivey requested designs for “at least twelve homes.” All of these residences would have a study, and six would have two bedrooms while the other six would have three bedrooms. A letter in February 1939 referred to 20 homes to be built on land adjacent to the college. Original plans called for flat roofs; the Federal Housing Administration (which would have been involved in financing these homes) would not approve the housing unless they had slanted roofs (a letter to this effect, dated February 8, 1940, is in the college archives). In January 1940 Wright reported to Spivey that he had finished plans for “a typical cottage and scheme for seventeen of the faculty.” Thus, at that late date the plan seemed to have at least one design for 17 intended structures.
Fast-forward: One example of a planned faculty residence came to fruition as the new visitor center (“tourism & education center”) for the college’s Child of the Sun campus.
Fountain & Floral Hemicycle - referred to in a letter dated May 26, 1942. The letter had a breakdown of building costs and design costs for other aspects of the campus, but this feature was referred to without any details. This suggests that the structure was considered at this stage but was not in the drawing stage.
Nature Arts & Sciences Building – referred to in a letter dated May 26, 1942. The letter had a breakdown of building costs and design costs for other aspects of the campus, but this building was referred to without any details. This suggests that the building was considered at this stage but was not in the drawing stage.
Student housing – In his January 1940 letter to Dr. Spivey, Wright mentioned a “boys’ dormitory” having been designed on a preliminary basis. The September 1940 letter to MOMA referred to designs for a Mens’ Dormitory. These are undoubtedly the same planned structure. A 1939 letter from Spivey to Wright suggests two buildings, although they could be tied together if they had separate entrances. Each would house 50 students.
Swimming Pool & Bathhouse – Appears to be part of the Amphitheatre design.
Theatre – I have not yet substantiated the Theatre as a separate design. It may have been the unbuilt Amphitheatre (discussed above), or it could be the Theatre-in-the-Round as part of the Industrial Arts Building that was actually constructed.
Summary – So where do we stand on the count? These appear to be the built and unbuilt structures:
Administration buildings – 2
Auditorium - 1
Industrial Arts/Home Economics – 2
Seminars – 3
Chapels – 2
Esplanades – 1 system
Library – 1
Student housing/Dormitories – 2
Faculty housing – 20
Amphitheatre, with swimming pool & bathhouse – 1 (could also be Fountain & Floral Hemcycle)
Music Building - 1
Waterdome – 1
Manual Arts Building – 1? (could be another building by a different name)
Science building – 1 or 2
My research is ongoing.