Florida Southern College has made architectural history once again with the completion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House. Designed by Wright in 1941, the plans for the Usonian House where locked away — until now.
This construction marks the first time this particular design of a Wright home has even been built.
The 1,700-square-foot Usonian House is expected to become the centerpiece of Florida Southern College
’s Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center — the first stop for tens of thousands of visitors who come to Lakeland annually to see the Wright-designed campus and buildings.
Built by Rodda Construction
, Inc. of Lakeland and with M. Jeffrey Baker of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects of Albany, NY acting as supervising architect, the project showcases many of Wright’s signature architectural features, including a large open fireplace, cantilever construction, colored cast-glass blocks, floor-to-ceiling windows, minimal storage space and a floor plan that encouraged family togetherness.
“The Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, with the Usonian House as its centerpiece, represents the college’s ongoing commitment to preserving and celebrating its unique architectural legacy,” says Florida Southern Director of Marketing & Communications Kathleen Farley. “With the addition of the Usonian House and the new educational resources the Sharp Center brings, we expect that our tourism numbers will rise significantly, bringing more visitors not only to our campus, but also to downtown Lakeland and other attractions in Polk County.”
Currently, the Florida Southern College campus welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually and boasts the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world.
The West Campus of Florida Southern College represents the most fully articulated vision of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, including the largest water feature, the only theater-in-the-round and the only planetarium ever designed by Wright. These attractions receive upwards of 100,000 visitors per year.
“Any fan of architecture or student of American history should make the trip to see this absolutely stunning and unique collection. I feel privileged that I get to walk among these structures every day,” Farley says. “Wright’s attention-to-design on a grand scale right down to the tiniest of details is simply mind-blowing. No aspect of these structures occurred by happenstance — every detail was carefully thought out to achieve a particular outcome and particular experience for each viewer.”
Usonian was Wright’s acronym for United States of North America, implying an aesthetic stemming from the blend of cultures and environments unique to the country. Wright initially conceived several Usonian-style homes to serve as faculty housing for the campus, however, none were built. This particular design has never been constructed before.
Funded by a number of private donations, the project received a $1 million contribution from Polk County
and a donation of $500,000 from the City of Lakeland
Woodwork for the project was performed by Thomas Sharrett of Demoss Cabinetry of Lakeland and cast glass fabrication by Ron Bearer, Jr. of R4 Glass Studio in Cocoa. Cast glass installation was performed by Ken Berman of Lakeland’s The Glass Onion
and textile blocks were created by Ken Uracius of Stone and Lime Inc, of Brookfield, MA.
Source: Kathleen Farley, Florida Southern College