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Artful Dodges - Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings
at Florida Southern College

Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings at Florida Southern College
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland 33801
(863) 680-4110

Admission: Free
Hours: Visitor Center is open Monday to Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.; grounds are accessible 24 hours a day
Location: On the shores of Lake Hollingsworth

Devotees of Frank Lloyd Wright (and they are legion) will want to make a pilgrimage to Lakeland, about 54 miles west of Orlando, to marvel at the largest group of Wright buildings in the world. Wright designed 18 buildings for Florida Southern, a liberal arts college affiliated with the Methodist Church. Twelve were built.

To get there from Orlando, drive west on I-4 and take Exit 32. Follow US 98 South. From Tampa take Exit 22 and follow US 92 East. The two routes join in downtown Lakeland. When they part ways again, follow route 98 and, shortly, turn right onto Ingraham Avenue. Follow Ingraham until it deadends at Lake Hollingsworth Drive (you’ll see the campus of Florida Southern College on your right).

Turn right onto Lake Hollingsworth, then right again onto Johnson Avenue. Look for the parking lot on your right opposite the William F. Chatlos Journalism Building. If the visitor center isn’t open when you drop by, look for a red and white sign; on it is a clear plastic box containing brochures that outline a self-guided walking tour that circles the grounds.

The buildings were designed for a tight budget (in fact, much of the early construction was done by students in the forties) but the results are impressive. Many buildings are unlocked and open to the casual visitor. Inside, look for the tiny squares of colored glass embedded in the exterior walls — a delightfully whimsical touch. Take a moment to sit in the quiet splendor of the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel; the smaller but equally arresting Danforth Chapel is nearby. One of the most interesting buildings to be seen here is the only planetarium Wright ever designed.

The buildings are starting to show their age, but Wright’s designs are so idiosyncratic, his decorative elements so unique, that this extensive example of his “organic architecture” seems to exist outside the time/style continuum we carry around in our heads. Instead, it is easy to imagine you are in a city built a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The buildings are linked by one and a half miles of covered esplanades that Wright, in his charmingly perverse way, scaled to his own rather short height. “It makes it kind of difficult to recruit a basketball team,” a college executive confided. But for those who fit underneath, the effect is rather cozy and Florida Southern students must say a silent prayer of thanks to Wright as they scurry between classes during an afternoon downpour.

Nearby: Fantasy of Flight, Polk Museum of Art, Water Ski Experience.

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