It has been suggested that there are five American thinkers and inventors who have changed the way we live today: Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright (1867-1959) is generally regarded as one of the greatest architects of the modern era, and his innovations are part and parcel of the way homes and offices are designed today. Anyone who has watched HGTV is familiar with some of them: “open concept,” recessed lighting, and sliding glass doors, just to name a few. His big ideas were that structures should be designed according to how we live and work and that natural surroundings should be incorporated into those structures – what he termed “organic architecture.”
“Before Wright, houses would be a hallway with little boxes adjoining it. He gave us freedom to live domestically how we want. His spatial concept is that life is more than living in a box,” said Mark Tlachac, former director of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center at Florida Southern College. “He gave us an appreciation for nature and for the beauty of natural building materials like stone and wood.”
The West Campus at FSC, designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012, has the largest collection of Wright’s designs on one site anywhere in the world. Thousands of visitors come to FSC each month to tour the campus’ 13 Wright-designed structures, built between 1943 and 1959. Visitors can see for themselves these memorable features, among others:
- Wright’s only theater-in-the-round;
- His largest water feature, the 160-foot-diameter Water Dome;
- The last stained-glass window he designed, in the Danforth Chapel.
In addition, the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center includes a Usonian house, designed in the 1930s and originally intended as faculty housing, which was completed in 2013 as a stunning embodiment of Wright’s ideas.
In commemoration of Wright’s 150th birthday, the Center is holding a “Happy Birthday, Frank” celebration on June 8. The public is invited to come and learn more about the legacy of this designer, who has so influenced how we live today, and about Wright’s FSC campus, which Tlachac calls “an unparalleled gem.”
The Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, located at 840 Johnson Ave., in Lakeland, offers tours, educational information, and gifts. The Center is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, call (863) 680-4597 or go to www.flsouthern.edu/fllw.
By Cary McMullen | Florida Southern College