The 1700-square-foot Usonian house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 as modest faculty housing, is the 13thÂ structure by the renowned architect to be built on Florida Southernâ€™s campus, but the first since Wrightâ€™s death in 1959.
The house, which will serve as a museum dedicated to the architect and his work on campus, is the centerpiece of the collegeâ€™s new Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center.Â As the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, a National Historic Landmark, and twice-ranked #1 Most Beautiful Campus in America, Florida Southernâ€™s campus draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, all of which will pass through the newly constructed house.
Wright felt most college campuses were architectural failures and wanted the opportunity to design an entire campus from scratch.Â Wright believed his concept of Organic Architecture would unite the individual structures with their environment and as a group enabling them to work together to create a whole better than the sum of its parts.
The two bedroom house is composed of 1,978 of Wrightâ€™s signature, interlocking ceramic textile blocks, handcrafted in 47 distinct shapes by an 81-year old artisan, as well as 6,000 colored glass blocks, each inserted by hand into the ceramic walls.Â The buildingâ€™s modest scale, local materials, respect for the natural landscape, and self-consciously American style were meant to embody Wrightâ€™s â€œUsonianâ€ architectural ideals.
Colored glass blocks were made in color batches using a technique for pouringÂ molten glassÂ into blocks that has been around for over one hundred years.Â The custom glass blocks for the Usonian House were poured in an American factory that has been open since the late 1800s.
The molds for Wrightâ€™s unique concrete blocks were constructed from the originalÂ drawings, but the mixture of ingredients had to be changed to provide a higher degree of resilience and strength.Â The molds are filled on a vibrating table to ensure quick and complete settling and then submerged in water in order to prevent cracks and checks.
Along with an array of custom-made fittings and distinctly-Wright built-ins, the house contains reproductions of furniture Wright designed specifically for houses of this type, as well as a portrait of the architect by Yousuf Karsh.Â Nearby, a life-size bronze statue of Wright by noted artists Don Haugen and Teena Stern was also unveiled at the buildingâ€™s opening on November 1st.
â€œIt is a singular privilege to be stewards of this paramount piece of American architectural heritage,â€ said college president, Dr. Anne Kerr, in a statement. Â â€œFrank Lloyd Wright is not only a part of Florida Southernâ€™s history, but also a part of Americaâ€™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.â€ Â Aside from the newly constructed house, the college campus contains Wrightâ€™s only built planetarium, the only arena-style theater he ever designed, his largest built water feature, and the last specially design stained glass feature of his career.
Photos via: FSC Flickr,Â “Copyright 2013 Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects.”