Florida Southern College,
The Roux Library Building was completed in 1946 on the north side of the “Water Dome” in the main square at Florida Southern College (FSC) in Lakeland, Florida.
FSC is a treasure house of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings and contains ten Wright designed buildings of the seventy total buildings on the 113 acre campus. Wright began the design of the campus master Plan in 1936 when Ludd M. Spivey, FSC President from 1925 to 1957, visited Wright in his Spring Green, Wisconsin Studio and home and commissioned him. Spivey envisioned a “college of tomorrow” as an inspiration to build enrollment at the United Methodist facility. 1936 was the middle of the “great depression” and college enrollments were hard hit as a result. The two visionaries shook hands, Wright began work and ground was broken in 1938. The campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district due to the historical significance of the Frank Lloyd Wright and other architect designed buildings.
FSC has recently commissioned Robert A. M. Stern, the Dean of the Yale University Architecture School, to lead their most recent expansion and preservation efforts beginning in 2005. Stern is an accomplished designer as well as an educator: he won the Driehaus Architecture Prize in 2011. Stern has designed and built several buildings on the FSC campus: the Barnett Residential Life Center completed in 2009, which includes Nicholas and Wesley Halls that house 235 students in lake-view rooms. This complex was designed to complement the Wright designed buildings nearby. The 4,000 SF Rinker Technology Center opened in March 2010 in response to a gift of $1.5 million to FSC by Marshal and Vera lee Rinker in 2008. According to Stern, his new buildings are intended to “honor Wright’s historic legacy while putting my own mark on the campus by complimenting, not copying, Wright.”
Wright was at the peak of his career at the time of his work at FSC. Wright began with a Master Plan that incorporated all existing buildings at that time and those that he and Spivey envisioned would be needed in the future. He then proceed to methodically fill in the blanks. Some of the other notable buildings on the Florida Southern campus are the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, completed 1941 (featured in E&A 2012 4th Quarter Newsletter); the Administration Building and Water Dome, completed 1949 (featured in E&A 2012 3rd Quarter Newsletter); the Ordway Building (Industrial Arts), completed 1952, the Danforth Chapel, completed 1955; the Polk Science Building (contains a planetarium), completed 1958; and the Esplanades, with various completion times, and currently being restored in some areas. These are the distinctive covered walkways that connect most all of the buildings, the roofs of which are razor thin concrete slabs and supported on upside down tetrahedron bulky concrete columns set to one side of the walkway with the roof slab cantilevering to cover the entire walk. Visit our website at www.ehlinger.com for previous editions mentioned.
As said before: like most Wright projects, this one is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of its beauty and daring, simplicity, and almost pure art - a delight to the eyes. A curse because of the oft-times experimental components failing by not weathering well, and the sometimes dictatorial personal idiosyncratic nature of some of the spaces. Wright used here what he termed his “Textile blocks”. These were concrete blocks designed and fabricated by the architect himself - these cannot be replaced “off- the-shelf” when one cracks or is damaged in any way. One has to manufacture them.
The Stern firm has had its hands full dealing with the remediation and repair of the Wright designed buildings because of this. new textile blocks have been manufactured and inserted in existing walls, roof repairs have been made on numerous buildings, and the Water Dome has been fully restored with the addition of powerful pumps to supplement the chronically low municipal water pressure. One critic remarked that the Water Dome finally worked for the first time.