Child of the Sun Campus

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As a Frank Lloyd Wright fan I found myself very interested in learning about the architecture of the college.  During my tour I learned many intriguing stories and design principles.  I hope you find them as interesting as I did.  Florida southern college in Lakeland Florida is built on a hill within an orange grove, with a lake at the bottom of the hill.  It is the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture on one site.

Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned an 18 building “Child of the Sun” campus, where buildings grow out from the sand and into the light.  The buildings connected by a series of covered walkways weaving in and out provide the structure for the complex.  From 1938 – 1958, 12 of the 18 buildings were built along with 1.5 miles of covered walkways referred to as the esplanades.

All the structures were designed on a grid creating mathematical rhythms throughout the site. The architecture is low and human in scale with emphasis on the horizontal.  A deliberate focus was placed on not blocking the view of the lake and not dominating the landscape.  The long low buildings exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright organic architecture.

The design for the esplanade supports are stylized orange trees placed 18 feet apart, similar to the spacing for planting orange trees.  All spacing and distances are divisible by 3 or 9.  The low roof line on the esplanade is to keep you moving and to make the interiors of the buildings feel grander upon entering.

Wright used materials that were common to the area, generally referred to as vernacular architecture.  Those materials included textile blocks, sand, seashells & glass.  Wright also used copper because he liked the green colour it would turn naturally. Student’s urine was collected and used to turn the copper green immediately so Wright did not have to wait years for this to occur naturally.

Wright was very innovative and experimental with his design work, as a result some details did not turnout as planned.  The water fountain was built years before the technology to make it work was available.  The textile blocks were not water tight or secure.  Wright attempted to design the buildings to not need air conditioning. He did not use air conditioning units or handrails because they were not aesthetically pleasing.  Currently at the college, there are flights of stairs you are not allowed to go up because there are no handrails.  There are also many flights of stairs throughout the college where handrails had to be added.

Originally the college saw the buildings and esplanades as a challenge with regard to upkeep.  Within the last 20 years they have come to see what a piece of art the college campus is.  The college is currently fundraising to restore many of the changes that have been made to the buildings throughout the college.  They are also considering building the reflecting ponds and other details Wright designed.  Due to budget constraints at the time of construction some of Wright’s designs were never completed.

Later this week, amongst organizing receipts for income tax, I plan to blog about my visit to St. Augustine.  While there I visited the once renowned Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels, now known as Flagler College and the Lightner Museum.