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Florida Southern College Ranked ‘America’s Most Beautifu...

Florida Southern College Ranked ‘America’s Most Beautiful Campus’ for Wright Reasons

Voted consecutively by The Princeton Review as “The Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation,” Florida Southern College is a National Historic Landmark that holds the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Wright believed that many college campuses were architectural failures and sought after the opportunity to design an entire campus from the

Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in Lakeland, Florida, United States Image by Janette Chavez

Voted consecutively by The Princeton Review as “The Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation,” Florida Southern College is a National Historic Landmark that holds the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

Wright believed that many college campuses were architectural failures and sought after the opportunity to design an entire campus from the ground up. In 1936, Florida Southern College’s President, Ludd M. Spivey offered the acclaimed architect the chance to do so by designing the Methodist affiliated school.

With no endowment – during the Great Depression and World War II – Spivey was able to afford bringing to life Wright’s drafted plans by hiring students to build the structures. Florida Southern College Architectural District is composed of thirteen buildings that form the college’s campus, which is also known as Child of the Sun, a name Wright gave the college.

It’s no surprise that Florida Southern College finds a place on many visitors' travel itineraries for all the “Wright” reasons. As you step foot on the college grounds today, it is evident that Wright has left his iconic fingerprint in the configuration of each of the structures. Wright thought his concept of organic architecture” would marry the individual buildings with their environment, which would work together to create a whole better than the sum of its parts.

The Annie Pfieffer Chapel was Wright’s first, and and perhaps one of his most noted works at Florida Southern College. Wright personally supervised the construction, which began in 1938. The extensive network of cantilevered, covered walkways called esplanades was put under construction in 1940, acting the threads that bound Wright's separate building designs into an organic whole.

Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in Lakeland, Florida, United States Image by Janette Chavez

The William H. Danforth Chapel was the second chapel Wright designed for Florida Southern College, and it is the only project on the campus that has leaded glass and Florida red cypress on the exterior. This chapel was completed in 1955, and just one year after the renowned architect completed the award winning Guggenheim Museum. The Unitarian Meeting House, in Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin looks very similar in design to the the William H. Danforth Chapel, both having prow-like fronts.

Florida Southern College has developed a master plan that envisions the return of original orange groves along with other landscaping, renovations and restorations to all the buildings, like the Thad Buckner Building; the historical past of Florida Southern College has received global recognition, leading to increased endowment funds, as well as admission.

Since Frank Lloyd Wright has a legacy of leaky roofs in his infrastructures, the current President of Florida Southern College, Anne B. Kerr, vowed to beautify the campus and restore Frank Lloyd Wright’s original vision for Florida Southern College. Kerr’s efforts, have included the implementation of an irrigation system to refurbish the gardens and courtyards back to Wright’s days, in addition to restoring Wright’s Water Dome. Originally designed as a circular pool with a dome of water created by fountain jets around the perimeter, has since been converted to several smaller pools and a walkway surface during the 1960s.

Spivey imagined a so-called "college of tomorrow" to upturn enrollment and Wright fulfilled his wish, which allowed for both men’s lofty ambitions to become a reality that can still be experienced today at Florida Southern College. If you’re an architectural admirer and find yourself in Lakeland, why not take a tour of Florida Southern College’s Frank Lloyd Wright architecture district? Visit the university's website to find your “Wright” tour.

How does university architecture influence academic achievement or admissions? Do any universities in your city have well-renowned architectural features? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

Credits: Images by Janette Chavez. Data linked to sources.

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