Of the dozen structures, the library took the longest to build because of World War II, which sapped materials and labor. As part of a work-study program, students mixed concrete and hauled blocks in exchange for room, board and tuition. During the crucible of battle, women dominated the construction force.
To create a cohesive whole, Wright designed a 1.5-mile network of covered walkways that string together the disparate buildings. The esplanades, no surprise, aren’t just a pedestrian highway but also a work of art. Geometric cutouts overhead mirror the flower planters below. An oxidized copper trim runs like a dirty ribbon along the upper portions. Abstract shapes on the bases evoke a feature typical of the Florida landscape. To protect Bill’s schtick, I won’t reveal the inspiration, but I will say that the answer is somewhere on this page.
The Danforth Chapel (1955) is less of a puzzle. With a leaded stained-glass wall behind the pulpit and a wimple-like roof, it looks and feels holy. The church is also a sacred site for Wright believers: His spirit soars from red floor to sloped roof and even rests on the cushioned pews.
“Wright was Mr. Posture. Virtually everything he designed was at a 90-degree angle,” Bill said as I tested one of the 550 seats. “As Wright’s furniture goes, these were relatively comfortable.”
As we continued onward, to the science, fine arts and administrative buildings, I felt myself advancing in the Higher Education of Wright. Though I’d visited many of his houses and institutions over the years, at FSC I experienced a number of one-and-onlys: the world’s only Wright-made planetarium and theater-in-the-round, and his largest water feature, the 160-foot-wide Water Dome. And in the category of most quotidian detail ever created by a legend: the window decal.
In the 1950s, before the advent of vertical blinds, people apparently banged into glass windows and doors — including Wright himself. To deter crashes, the architect, who loathed curtains, whipped up stickers resembling, to this observer’s eye, a deconstructed red panda. The school has since incorporated the shape into its logo.
Of course, Wright wasn’t always so practical or sensitive to the client’s needs. For the Water Dome, he envisioned high-powered jets spraying 45-foot-high arcs inward, like synchronized whales all exhaling at once. The design, however, proved too futuristic; the technology didn’t exist in 1948. In the 1960s, the college reduced his work to smaller pools set in a concrete plaza.
In 2007, a restoration project returned the Water Dome to its original state. But the college can activate the fountain only four times a day. Running it full time would violate the county’s water conservation policies.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Child
of the Sun campus
Florida Southern College
948 Johnson Ave.
Visitor center open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. (On Nov. 19, hours change to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.) One-hour basic tour departs four times a day Monday-Saturday and three times on Sunday; $20. Two-hour in-depth tour leaves twice daily; $35. Specialty tours (e.g., Restoration Tour, Behind the Scenes Tour) available on specific dates. Self-guided tour maps available at the visitor center .