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Last week, Florida Southern College (FSC) announced the establishment of a school of architecture on its historic Frank Lloyd Wright–designed campus. Located on a sprawling 110-acre site in Lakeland, Florida, 35 miles east of Tampa, the small private college boasts the largest single-site collection of Wright architecture in the world and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Founded in 1852 as a Methodist seminary, FSC was itinerant in its early years, but settled in a defunct citrus grove in 1921. In 1938, Dr. Ludd Spivey, the college’s president at the time, reached out to Wright with his plans to construct a "temple" for education in Florida. Wright, then 71 years old, was tempted by the scope of the project, despite the school’s limited funding. After a visit to the school, the architect envisioned a campus that would, in his words, “grow out of the ground and into the light, [like] a child of a sun,” and went on to embark on the longest commission of his career, which only ended with his death in 1959.

Over the course of twenty years, Wright produced 18 designs for his “truly American campus,” envisioning a network of buildings radiating from a central hub. Uniformly constructed with tan-colored concrete, the buildings are connected by a system of covered walkways, known as the Esplanade, totaling over a mile in length. Twelve of Wright’s designs were realized in his lifetime, and three built posthumously. The campus’s completed structures include: the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel (1941), the Water Dome (1948), the Danforth Chapel (1955), and the Polk County Science Building (1958). 

The Florida Southern College School of Architecture is set to open in Fall of 2025 and will be housed in the Lucius Pond Ordway Building (1952), which was originally built for the college’s industrial arts program. With its distinctly angled roof, the building is reminiscent of the design studio at Wright’s Taliesin West complex in Arizona, and a personal favorite of the architect’s. According to a statement from the college, the architecture school’s facilities will include design studios, fabrications labs, and a research center. The curriculum will offer study abroad programs in Florence, Italy, and Tokyo and opportunities for students to work alongside industry professionals as early as freshman year. 

Florida Southern College School of Architecture.

The 1952-built Ordway building. Photo courtesy Florida Southern College

"We are excited to embark on this journey of excellence in architectural education," said FSC president Dr. Anne Kerr. "Our partnerships with renowned architects underscores our dedication to preserving architectural heritage while educating the next generation of visionary architects."  

Made possible by an anonymous benefactor, the program will begin as an undergraduate degree, with plans to expand into a master’s degree in 2028, allowing the first graduating class to continue their studies at the school. FSC did not announce who would be leading the nascent program, saying it is commencing its search for a dean in June.