LAKELAND, FL -- Architectural history was made on the campus of Florida Southern College last week with the grand opening of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center and its cultural centerpiece, a newly constructed building by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). Known as a "Usonian" house, the home was designed by Wright in 1939, and it is the first time this particular Wright design has ever been built.
Florida Southern's campus contains the world's largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. Wright began his work with Florida Southern in 1938, conceiving a master plan for "a college of tomorrow" that came to include 18 structures, 12 of which were built during Wright's life, between 1938 and 1958. The Usonian house will be the thirteenth Wright structure to join the collection. Florida Southern was named the #1 Most Beautiful Campus in America by The Princeton Review an unprecedented two years in a row (2011 and 2012) and is currently ranked #3.
The Usonian house will feature reproduction furniture designed by Wright specifically for use in his Usonian homes as well as a specially commissioned orientation film, "Florida Southern College: Frank Lloyd Wright's American Campus." The Ruthven Plaza, the GEICO Gift Shop--a faithfully restored Craftsman home--and the Usonian house comprise the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, which will be the first stop for the tens of thousands of guests who visit annually to tour the college's collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.
"It is a singular privilege to be stewards of this paramount piece of American architectural heritage," said Dr. Kerr, "Frank Lloyd Wright is not only a part of Florida Southern's history, but also a part of America's great history, and the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center is a wonderful tribute to his legacy on our campus and his impact around the world."
Dr. Anne Kerr will also unveil a life-size Frank Lloyd Wright bronze statue sculpted by nationally renowned artists Don Haugen and Teena Stern, as well as a rare Yousuf Karsh portrait of Wright that has been generously donated to be on display in the Usonian house.
Construction of the house demanded that virtually every aspect, including the unique "textile" blocks, be hand crafted by experienced artisans. The building uses approximately 2000 interlocking blocks and is adorned with nearly 6000 hand-inserting colored glass blocks. The home illustrates all of Wright's Usonian ideals: a distinctly American style embodying respect for the natural landscape, economy of size, and the use of locally obtained, native materials for construction.