Florida Southern College’s New School of Architecture

Florida Southern College’s New School of Architecture

Florida Southern College, renowned for its collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings, is embarking on a new chapter by establishing a School of Architecture. This exciting development was announced by President Anne Kerr on Thursday, May 16, 2024, during a gathering of donors, architects, engineers, local dignitaries, and college officials.

Key Details about the New School

Program Offerings and Timeline

  • The Florida Southern College School of Architecture is scheduled to open its doors to undergraduate students in the fall of 2025.
  • A four-year Bachelor of Architecture program will be offered, with plans to introduce a master’s program in 2028.
  • The historic Ordway Industrial Arts Building, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 15 campus designs, will house the new school.
  • The search for a dean to lead the School of Architecture will commence next month.

Curriculum Highlights

According to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tracey Tedder, the program will blend academic rigor with practical experiences, emphasizing historic preservation and sustainability. Students can expect the following opportunities:

  • Access to state-of-the-art facilities, including design studios, fabrication labs, and a research center.
  • Hands-on experience in designing and building shelter projects.
  • Internships with leading architectural firms.
  • Collaboration with industry professionals as early as their freshman year.
  • Study abroad programs in Florence, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan.

Guidance and Oversight

The School of Architecture will be guided by an internationally acclaimed advisory board, ensuring a high standard of education and industry relevance.

The Context: Architecture Programs in Florida

Currently, there are only six universities in Florida that offer degrees recognized by the National Architectural Accrediting Board:

  • Bachelor of Architecture: Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Miami.
  • Master of Architecture: Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University, Florida International University, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida.

While some institutions like the University of Central Florida offer pre-architecture programs or design-related degrees, they do not lead directly to professional certification.

Florida Southern College’s Architectural Legacy

Founded in 1852 as a Methodist seminary, Florida Southern College is the oldest private college in Florida. Its current location on the north shore of Lake Hollingsworth dates back to 1921. The college’s architectural heritage is deeply rooted in Frank Lloyd Wright’s visionary designs.

In the 1930s, the college’s then-president, Ludd Spivey, sought to transform the small institution through modern architecture. He reached out to Wright, who went on to create 18 building designs for the campus over two decades, with at least 15 structures funded and built, including:

  • The Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
  • Three identical seminar buildings
  • The E.T. Roux Library (now the Thad Buckner Administration Building)
  • The Emile E. Watson Administration Building
  • The Benjamin Fine Administration Building
  • The Water Dome
  • The Lucius Pond Ordway Industrial Arts Building
  • The Fletcher Theatre
  • The Polk County Science Building
  • The Planetarium
  • The William H. Danforth Chapel
  • The Esplanade
  • The Usonian Faculty House

Recent Architectural Additions

During President Anne Kerr’s 20-year tenure, which is coming to an end, three distinct buildings were designed by architect Jeff Baker and constructed on campus. These modern additions, featuring Baker’s signature red beams, red balls, and large picture windows, stand alongside Wright’s work while maintaining a respectful distance. They include the France Admissions Center and the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Computer Sciences Center.

A Logical Fit for Florida Southern College

With its rich architectural heritage and stunning Wright-designed campus, Florida Southern College has long been a mecca for architecture enthusiasts. The college has consistently appeared on The Princeton Review’s top 20 “Most Beautiful Campus” national listing for 13 consecutive years and has been frequently named one of the best colleges in the Southeast by U.S. News and World Report.

Jeff Baker, the college’s historic preservation artist-in-residence, expressed his elation at the announcement, stating, “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever see this day. It’s not every day that we’re able to make history. Indeed it is not every life that is able to make history. Tonight, history is being made. The creation of this new School of Architecture is a wonderful thing. I’ve heard it said that it may be the most significant thing Florida Southern has done in the past 50 years.”

Bob Fryer, who served as the chairman of the FSC board for 20 years, shared his enthusiasm, saying, “I think it’s amazing. It’s been a dream for a long, long time and, thanks to financial help, the dream has come true.”

A Bright Future for Architecture Education

With its rich architectural heritage, stunning campus, and commitment to excellence, Florida Southern College’s new School of Architecture promises to be a landmark addition to the state’s educational landscape. As students embark on their architectural journey, they will have the opportunity to learn from industry professionals, engage in hands-on projects, and contribute to the ongoing legacy of innovative design and sustainability.