Florida Southern a monument to Frank Lloyd Wright architecture

With the anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday this year, it’s the “Wright” time to visit Florida Southern’s campus in Lakeland, home to an entire collection – 13 buildings — of Wright’s designs.

He took on this project in 1938 when he was almost 70 years old and launching his career for the fourth time. Florida Southern’s campus is his largest and longest single-site commission. It’s his only campus, and includes his last stained-glass window, his only planetarium, his largest water feature and his only theater-in-the-round. He worked on it until 1958, a year before his death in 1959 at age 91.

At the time he designed his “Child of the Sun” structures, the campus was set amid a citrus grove, and he designed his buildings with a low profile to fit the terrain. Structures and environment play and blend with each other.

“Buildings should seem to grow from the earth and belong as a tree belongs,” Wright said on his first visit to the college. “Every building is out of the ground and into the light — a child of the sun.”

Time, though, has left its mark, and the campus was put on the National Monuments Watch List in 2008. Since then, it received National Historic Landmark designation in 2012 and interior restorations of Wright’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel were completed in September 2015. His water dome, esplanades and theater have also been recently restored.

Wright’s collection at the college also includes a second chapel, three seminar buildings, a library, two administration buildings, an industrial arts building and a science building.

The Annie Pfeiffer Chapel

“To me, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, in its entirety, is breathtaking structurally, an origami in concrete,” said Jeff Baker of the Albany-based architectural firm, Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker, who oversaw its restoration. “It’s incredibly complex spatially and an enigma. It’s conceived as a series of balconies held up on four piers, but when you start following what’s holding up the upper parts of the building, it ceases to be evident from an architectural perspective. It’s difficult to understand an imagination developing and conceiving that space in that form and complexity.”

Added tour guide Bill Stephens: “An amazing teeter-totter of a building, if you removed the outside walls, the whole structure would still stand.”

Comprising three horizontal bands, cement blocks at the chapel’s base are decorative and bejeweled, pierced and inset with tiny pieces of colored glass. The second band of the chapel is made up of plain cement blocks, and the third, the superstructure, features a tower braced by bowties, symbolic of folded hands in prayer that the students like to call the “bicycle rack in the sky.”

“There are so many tiny details,” Stephens said. “Geometry was Wright’s thing and there are angles everywhere; and also, no matter what time of day, you can see the pieces of colored glass in the south wall, and looking up, you see that the whole ceiling is glass.”

Supposedly, Florida Southern had a temporary outdoor chapel with vine-covered lathwork over it, Baker said, and Wright wanted to design his chapel with the same feeling. “The bowties in the superstructure were actually planters, and he envisioned vines hanging down from what students call the bicycle rack. It was to be like a hanging garden, and the bowtie metalwork up between the towers was intended to be fitted with special bells so that the chapel became a hanging garden and a carillon, but that was never completed.

“That would have been unbelievable: a hanging garden and musical instrument.”

Restorations included removing carpeting and vinyl tile to reveal Wright’s signature Cherokee-red concrete floor; replacing theater seats with sculptural wood chairs based on Wright’s original design; replacing aluminum doors and window frames with wood; and removing more recent partitions to reflect the chapel’s original floor plan.

“The introduction of wood within the concrete warms up the space, makes it feel more human, and ties it together more closely to his previous work,” Baker said. “The furniture completely transforms how you sense the space, as do the doors, which have sidelights of wood and glass, forming almost a lantern-like appearance at the entrance of the building.”

Fountain of Knowledge 

Aiming for a “Florida form” and “outdoor garden character,” Wright veered away from the massive domed brick-and-mortar edifice typifying traditional college campuses.

Rather, for Florida Southern, he envisioned a free-spirited educational complex. His water dome, the “Fountain of Knowledge,” is 160 feet in diameter and when its 75 jets spout arcs of water, it can create a watery dome up to three stories high. As such, it is a negative dome, a sensorial focal point that is light, transparent and constantly moving.

But lacking the engineering know-how, the water dome had never functioned as a fountain until it was restored and “realized” by Baker’s team in 2007. “It had been filled in by a later architect and replaced by three reflecting pools,” Baker said. “Happily we found the original basin intact. … Wright did have an outer ring of piping at its perimeter with holes and little jets, but he didn’t have an engineer’s knowledge of how the water would shoot through the nozzles. Even the piping to the pump room was too small. The way it is now, designed by modern hydro-engineers, is very different from what Wright had envisioned.”


Wright also did away with the classical college quad system. Rather, representing a natural path to learning, his mile-plus of cantilevered covered walkways meander off at angles.

“People don’t pick this up since they aren’t used to seeing square citrus, but the columns of the esplanade actually form an abstraction of a row of orange trees,” Stephens said.

Like the trees of the original grove, the columns were positioned 18 feet from each other. Each column, 6-feet and 9-inches high, sprout an elongated triangle that supports the overhang, edged in copper. Additionally, the triangular module is incised with a design mimicking leaves.

Also, since Wright’s architecture correlates with nature, he let the grove dictate the direction of his layout. Overlaying a grid of six-foot squares are two more grids: one rotated 30 degrees and the second one at 60 degrees, with buildings sited either along the legs or at pivot points.

“If all 18 of Wright’s buildings had been built, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel would be like the hub of a wheel, and the esplanades would have been like the spokes of a wheel connecting all the buildings, as well as connecting with the outside rim,” Stephens says.

The low height of the canopy was purposeful, too, Stephens explained.

“The esplanade, as well as entry areas of buildings, were designed to give a feeling of compressed space, so that when people entered into a building, and were confronted by the interior space, they would say ‘Ah,’ while experiencing a sense of release. Frank called it, compress and release.”


Part of the Ordway Industrial Arts Building, the theatre-in-the-round was also recently restored. Wright had intended for the theater to be an indoor amphitheater, with students sitting on platforms around the lecturer in the center, but the space had been changed into a hermetically sealed black box, Baker explained. His team removed later-period materials and reinstated it as Wright conceived it, a “vessel of light.”

“Light comes in through clerestory windows and reflects off of inverted cones on the ceiling,” Baker said. “It’s a wonderful space, similar to the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, where you feel cloistered in a space, but also connected to the sky.”

“Acoustics were important to Wright. Speak from the center, and it seems like you are wearing headphones,” Stephens said.


Other features to note:

* Baker’s firm recently constructed a Usonian House, based on Wright’s designs for a neighborhood of faculty housing, which had never been built. The two-bedroom dwelling illustrates the Usonian ideals of respect for the natural environment, economy of size and the use of native materials (in this case, tidewater cypress). It also features Wright’s Cherokee-red concrete floor and built-in furnishings. Wright sought to create well-designed affordable housing with his Usonians. This project, however, cost more than $1 million.

* The Danforth Chapel is the least modified building, so more clearly conforms to Wright’s design, and he designed the stained textured glass window to create an optical illusion. If standing in back of the room, the top portion doesn’t look like it goes out as far as the bottom, but it does.

* The Ordway Industrial Arts Building is a scaled-up version of the drafting rooms at Taliesin West. Wright considered the Ordway building one of the best buildings in his career, well-suited to its purpose.

* All structures were built with Wright’s “textile blocks.” There are more than 100 types and sizes of these handmade cement blocks, which are similar in color to the locale’s sand. “Textile blocks” were Wright’s invention of weaving double rows of blocks together horizontally and vertically with rebar. The library, theatre-in-the-round, and planetarium have circular elements, and considering they were made with textile blocks, really push the envelope.

Palm Beach Daily news article, December 18, 2019

Palm Beach apartment and piece of history

Visitors to Palm Beach famous Via Mizner off Worth Avenue might not realize its namesake — noted society architect Addison Mizner — designed an office building to house his architectural studio and related businesses.

Nor might they realize that the building today, No. 2 Via Mizner, is home to a three-bedroom apartment, which recently entered the marketplace at just under $10 million.


In 1923, the three-story office-studio building was the first of the complex to be completed on Worth Avenue, four years after the Mizner-designed Everglades Club opened across the street.

On the office building’s first floor was a space with a street-front display for his antique and pottery businesses. His office and studio were on the second floor, and a studio for architects and draftsmen — as well as a small apartment — were on the third floor.

heads up: Eclipse enters Palm Beach Inlet

Michael Rafferty, IYC broker, wrote: “This 533-foot yacht came in the Palm Beach inlet today at 1220 hours. It is owned by Roman Abramovich. It is the second largest yacht in the world and largest to ever come to Palm Beach.”


According to SuperYachtFan:  “Eclipse is known as ‘the USD 1.5 billion yacht,’ although her real cost price was considerably less. Her original contract price was around EUR 400 million, or USD 500 million. Superyacht Eclipse was the largest yacht in the world, but this title is now reserved for superyacht Azzam.”

Exteriors and interiors were designed by Terence Disdale. Eclipse can sleep 36 guests in 18 rooms that include a master suite and 17 VIP staterooms. It  can accommodate a crew of 70.

YachtCharterFleet says it can be chartered and lists amenities: conference room, movie theater, children’s playroom, gym, Jacuzzi, elevator, swimming pool, dance floor, tender garage, swim platform, helicopter hanger, underwater lights, spa, sauna, helicopter landing pad, and beauty salon.

Other facts, according to SuperYachtFan: Gossip has it that Eclipse has an anti paparazzi system that employs a laser that can detect and target a digital camera’s electronic light sensor. It then emits a beam that  overexposes the photo.  Built in secrecy, Eclipse was delivered by Blohm and Voss in 2010.  Early 2013, Eclipse arrived in New York and docked in Manhattan.  Early 2015, Eclipse was seen in a drydock at the Blohm+Voss yard in Hamburg for a refit.

Roman Abramovich is the 12th richest Russian with an estimated net worth of $9.1 billion (May 2017). In 1988 he and his wife set up a company making dolls. Within a few years he also started investing in other businesses. From 1992 to 1995, Abramovich founded five companies that conducted resale, produced consumer goods, and acted as intermediaries, specializing in the trading of oil and oil products. Abramovich set up and liquidated at least 20 companies during the early 1990s, in sectors as diverse as tire re treading and bodyguard recruitment. In 1995, Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, an associate of Boris Yeltsin, acquired the controlling interest in the large oil company, Sibneft. Abramovich sold his stake in Russian Aluminum to billionaire Oleg Deripaska and his stake in Sibneft to Gazprom for $13 billion in 2005. Abramovich owns the U.K.’s Chelsea soccer team, which he acquired in 2003. Abramovich owns a private jet Boeing 767, and he owns a Gulfstream G650. Roman Abramovich also owns the gas turbine powered yacht Sussurro.

He was married to Dasha Zhukova, whose father is oligarch Alexander Zhukov; they separated in August 2017.

Renaissance Faire

Monday 14 March 2011

Yes, we have one, too.

and it’s a great place for taking photos.

Last but not least, there was the youngest (that I know of) in the performing group. She’s 18 months old and I think her name is Lilly.

There was an entire fleet of fairies at the fair (that makes sense, doesn’t it?) (or is she a faun? confusing because she has wings, but she also has horns.)


Other types of ladies were there, too

What else? Let’s see. A falconer, Mistress Mary, Someone who dressed up for the occasion (a time traveler, perhaps?), and B, who came to take photos, too.

Cracker Trail Ride

Wednesday 9 March 2011

At the end of every Cracker Trail Ride, there’s a parade in Fort Pierce. At least, this year, I made the parade. Would like to have caught up with the group as the horses and riders made their way across the state. Maybe next year.

Florida Cracker Cowmen got their name because they cracked their long whips to herd up the cattle.

The Florida Cracker Association takes to the trail annually, and camps at ranches along the way…

Appeared they had a fine time, ending up at the bar, horses and all.












Lake Worth Street Painting