I love Lakeland, Florida. I’ve lived here for years – working as a Lakeland real estate professional – and it seems that there’s something new to enjoy all the time. Though my family and I enjoy all that the city has to offer, I think we’d all agree that Lakeland’s Florida Southern College campus is one of our very favorite parts of living here.
Frank Lloyd Wright was known for generating new and innovative architectural spaces that fit seamlessly into a given area’s natural surroundings. With Florida Southern’s campus, he did just that.
Unlike a lot of central Florida, Polk County has a good amount of topography. Lakeland benefits from this as well, and the 12 architectural structures Wright designed for Florida Southern College – the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world – fit organically into the college’s rolling landscape.
Some of My Favorite “Children of the Sun”
Though there are 12 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings on Florida Southern College’s campus, Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, the Water Dome, and the Esplanades that stretch along the campus grounds are my favorites.
Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
When you see pictures of Florida Southern College, Annie Pfeiffer Chapel is often the image you see. The chapel’s construction lasted from 1939-1041, and it was built using student labor – as were several of Wright’s buildings on the campus. Of all of Wright’s buildings at Florida Southern, Annie Pfeiffer shines as a true example of his work. Fit snugly into the hill upon which it sits, the chapel really does appear to be born from the ground – lifting into the sky – playing upon Wright’s “Child of the Sun” theme for his FSC campus architecture project.
The Water Dome
The Water Dome at Florida Southern Campus is located in front of Roux Library and is a showcase of beauty and serenity both day and night. Actual construction on the Water Dome in 1948, but was only just competed in 2007 due to financial and technical limitations.
There was a lot of press around this phase of Wright’s FSC design “coming to life,” and you’ll see why when you view the Water Dome first hand. The fountain is geometrically perfect 160 feet across. Around its perimeter are high-pressure water nozzles that propel water 45 feet into the air to create a “dome” of water.
The following video provides some history behind the Water Dome at Florida Southern College.
Wright’s desire to set his buildings at Florida Southern College within the landscape rather than flattening the land to set them upon it is clear when you roam underneath the vast expanse of esplanades covering the campus. The main idea for these covered walkways – in Wright’s mind – was for the esplanades to wind through the grounds and bring you suddenly upon one of the architect’s buildings.
In all, Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of buildings at Florida Southern College are a definite “must experience” when you next find yourself in Lakeland, Florida. Yes, I’m a Lakeland real estate agent, but I love just showing my city to newcomers as well. If you find yourself in the area looking, please call me at 863-619-6918. I’d love to share one of my city’s landmarks with you.
- Restoring a Campus-Full of Frank Lloyd Wright – NPR.org
- Florida Southern College Preservation and Restoration Project – Official Site