January 12, 2012

A Great Education Temple in Florida

One of the little-known treasures of Central Florida is Florida Southern College, which boasts the largest concentration of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright in the world.  Despite my appreciation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, I had never visited the campus in Lakeland. Tim and I drove through mile after mile of citrus groves to visit Florida Southern this afternoon.  It was absolutely amazing!

Frank Lloyd Wright was approached by college president Dr. Ludd Spivey in 1938 about designing “a great education temple in Florida.”  Such an opportunity to design a campus from scratch appealed to Wright, who was critical of the lack of architectural value in most college campuses. 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Florida Southern College does not dominate the land, but works in harmony with it.  His organic architecture melds the buildings with the environment, and the buildings work together as a whole.  Twelve buildings were constructed between 1939 and 1958.
The college maintains a visitor center in the original library and provides a walking tour guide. Tim and I walked through the campus and wandered into the buildings that are open. The buildings are constructed of sand-cast blocks that feature geometric designs and pierced openings, which are often filled with pieces of colored glass.  The interiors of the two chapels, which are two of the hallmark buildings on campus, were breathtaking.  

The Original E.T. Roux Library
The Original Library Reading Room Is Now the Visitor Center
Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
Light Floods the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
Pieces of Colored Glass Add Interest
William H. Danforth Chapel
Inside the William H. Danforth Chapel
I was particularly fascinated with the network of esplanades.  These are one-and-one-half miles of cantilevered, covered walkways that connect the individual buildings and create an organic whole.

Esplanades Connect the Buildings
Geometric Motifs Characterize the Esplanades
A Water Dome Was Completed in 1948
(Unfortunately, We Didn't See the Fountain While It Was "On")
I’m so glad that we were able to see such incredible architecture and would encourage anyone with an interest in Frank Lloyd Wright to make a detour to Lakeland, Florida.  It’s well worth it.

Sand-Cast Blocks
Copper-Trimmed Cantilevers


  1. How beautiful! I bet it would be an interesting view from above too. LV

  2. LV, What a great idea! We saw copies of Frank Lloyd Wright's original site plan for the campus, and it was such an interesting design. Sarah