What defines the legacy of an artist? Is there something distinct that separates the people that get remembered throughout history? Some sort of feeling that touched so many people that it is distilled into a resonance that remains for the rest of time. Or a blatant newness so fresh that it knocks so loudly no one can deny it.
What about for architecture though? Does an architects work conjure up the same feeling and then transcend into the text books that way? Or in a niche like that, does simply influencing the next generation of artists satisfy the requirements? What though, if your legacy manifests itself in the form of an entire campus to influence students for generations to come, simply by existing in their daily life? That seems to be the case with Frank Lloyd Wright as the majority of FSC was designed by him.
It was a warm winter afternoon and the sun shone high in the air as I entered the grounds. A seemingly endless blue filled the sky. Blue like the depths of a sapphire rich enough to fit a princesses crown. I walked past a few batches of Floridas abundant palms up a short stairway to a covered path, the signature straight lined Wright architecture apparent to anyone that was familiar with the style.
I had gotten lost in the ruler edged home of the Walters at Iowas Cedar Rock State Park and although the cold grey of the concrete pushed me away, the familiarity of the Wright lines helped me feel right at home.
The commission for Florida Southern came to Wright late in his life, not until the ripe age of 71. It then makes sense why he took it, as the college didn’t have the budget to pay for someone of his prestige. It offered him the chance to solidify a legacy for the foreseeable future and then some. The largest scale of a project he had ever taken on, as well as one the was not likely to ever be demolished. Before agreeing though, Wright requested to be able to survey the project to make sure the land would provide an opportunity to build what he envisioned.
At the time, the campus was mostly un developed and covered with citrus groves. While touring the property, Wright was thoroughly impressed saying that he could “envision buildings on this landscape that would grow out of the ground and into the light – a Child of the Sun.”
Lucky for us and the students of FSC, the campus now holds 18 of the famous architects works. Being considered one of the more notable artists in American History, the campus serves almost as a museum fo these types of “modern” buildings. A true gem in Florida simply waiting to be discovered.
Sitting on a rolling hill, the campus overlooks Lake Hollingsworth providing icing on the cake for anyone looking to get lost in the art created by the merger of concrete and earth. The entire area comes together to form one symbiotic masterpiece, almost as if it were Voltron. Without the perfect location, these buildings wouldn’t have as much impact. Without these buildings, this landscape would be more generic Florida.
As I traversed across the campus, my mind was filled with thoughts of contemplation, like it quite often is. My life has always been tied very closely to art and besides the value it creates for the individual artist, I have a harder and harder time justifying it’s value in terms of what it provides for society. The majority of it honestly seems pretty useless.
That is until I think about architecture, that form of art that tangibly changes the form of the world around it. I thought about the students that went to class here and wondered if any of them cherished the atmosphere that was created for them. Sometimes I think of todays obsession with short lived fame as having destroyed any notion of an artist that is remembered throughout time.
And that is why I am intrigued that architecture is not as cherished as a form of art. It is the only tangibly lived experience of art, the only thing that truly changes our day to day life opposed to just causing the illusion of a feeling inside of us.
Maybe it’s precisely that illusion that people are searching for. An escape that takes them out of the tangible reality that surrounds them.
I guess that sounds nice in theory, but I like reality and I’ll always remember the FSC Campus when I think about forms of tangible art.
Closest Supercharger Lakeland FL
4320 US Hwy 98 N, Lakeland, FL 33809
Florida Southern College
111 Lake Hollingsworth Dr, Lakeland, FL 33801