Sharp Center nears completion

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Alex Sessums

Staff Writer

 

The genius of America’s greatest architect is being revived yet again in tangible form on the campus of Florida Southern College.

Yet another Frank Lloyd Wright structure is in the works and is nearing completion on Oct. 20.

The dedication and grand opening on Nov. 1 will officially celebrate the structure’s completion. Along with the stunning visual example of Wright’s life and philosophy it serves to represent on the FSC campus.

The site, collectively known as the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, sits just north of the Florida Southern College campus in the South Lake Morton District and will house two structures.

“Both structures are part of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center,” FSC Vice President for Finance and Administration Terry Dennis said. “The Usonian home is strictly for visitors to observe a Wright-designed home while the adjacent bungalow house will serve as the gift shop.”

Dennis notes that the interest to build the Wright house came in large part from Dr. Anne Kerr, FSC President.

“As the history was studied, the idea of doing the actual construction of one of the homes designed for the campus got great support,” Dennis said.

Rodda construction of Lakeland was contracted out to work on the site.

“The house is built as close to the original drawings as possible,” John Rodda of Rodda Construction said. “All masonry blocks are hand-made using a wood mold. Color was then integrated into the blocks, and the concrete slab has the same color dye used by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

The home contains original Wright designed plans from the 1930’s for a style  as a ‘Usonian’ home.

Usonian, a portmanteau distortion of utopian and American, was intended by Wright to epitomize his vision for the landscape of American living and home life.

Wright envisioned his typically L-shaped Usonian homes to stand in the face of what he saw as 20th Century conformity and desired for his architects to incorporate as many native materials as possible from the surroundings into each design.

The home has an aesthetically earthy feel with typically low, cantilevered ceilings, wood masonry work on the inside and a garden in the middle of the home.

“The homes were designed without attics, basements or much in the way of frills, and were intended to be inexpensive homes that the average American could afford to have built for their personal residence,” Dennis said.

Wright desired his characteristically small, single-story dwellings to be built as distinct and architecturally pioneering structures that would in turn be metaphoric examples of the American people.

As such, it was originally intended that the homes would be residences for faculty.

“While Florida Southern College contracted Frank Lloyd Wright to draw homes for faculty on campus, FSC was unable to afford to construct the homes at that time, and simply paid Frank Lloyd Wright for the finished drawings,” Rodda said.

The completion of the Usonian home will mark a significant landmark in Frank Lloyd Wright and Lakeland history.

“It will represent the first time an actual Wright design has been constructed at the original site for which it was designed, and for the original owner, since the projects underway at his death were completed,” Dennis said.

Nearly 53 years after Frank Lloyd Wright’s death, his legacy on the FSC campus continues to be felt as the expected completion of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center later this fall brings the number of his “Child of the Sun” structures to 13.