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New Architecture Program Announced at Florida Southern College

May 30, 2024 News, Talent Pipeline

Thanks to an anonymous donor, Florida Southern College is establishing Polk County’s first School of Architecture. It will offer a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 2025, then add a master’s program in 2028. 

“The college recognizes that this new architectural program is a natural fit for our campus. It features the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in the world,” said Tracey Tedder, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Florida Southern College. “Wright, recognized by the American Institute of Architects as the most influential American architect of the 20th century, has left a lasting legacy here, with his work designated as a National Landmark.” 

The Architecture Program

The program will be housed in the Ordway Building. Also known as the Arts and Industries Building, Wright designed Ordway in 1952.  

Ordway Building, Photo by Calvin Knight 2018.

“The buildings on this campus showcase unique architectural designs that can’t be found anywhere else,” Tedder said. “These designs need to be studied and preserved to advance the field of architecture. Maintaining these structures will require ongoing efforts for many years. It turns the campus into a living laboratory for learning about historic preservation and architectural principles.” 

The program will combine those historic preservation techniques with modern design skills to offer students a distinct learning experience. “Graduates will gain valuable skills that will help their careers and meet a crucial need in the architectural profession,” she said.  

Wright pioneered a style of “organic architecture” that connects buildings with the natural landscape around them. Twenty-eight of his projects are National Historic Landmarks. This includes the FSC campus, which houses 18 of his building designs. 

The college has spent millions and received numerous grants through the years to restore Wright’s buildings. They are popular tourist attractions. The campus has been in The Princeton Review’s Top 20 list of Most Beautiful Campuses for 13 consecutive years.  

Fitting In

Tedder said the new college will fit in nicely with FSC’s other programs.  

“Florida Southern College’s mission is to ‘prepare students through dynamic engaged learning to make a positive and consequential impact on society’ and to preserve Wright’s work,” she said.  

The School of Architecture willperpetuates Wright’s “vision of a more profound, graceful, thoughtful and creative society by inspiring new generations to realize their full imaginative potential so as to become a catalyst for change”. 

FSC’s and the new college’s mission will blend together well. Tedder stated that they “align perfectly, emphasizing the significance of Wright’s work and the inspiration provided to students to contribute positively to society.”

Pfeiffer Chapel, located in the middle of the FSC Campus, built by Wright in 1941

“Florida Southern College’s goals focus on offering a transformative education through a blend of liberal arts and professional programs. The Bachelor of Architecture program uniquely combines art and engineering. It’s designed to be transformative for students and innovative for architectural education.” 

The new program complements many other undergraduate majors. Art History and Museum Studies, Business Administration, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Graphic Design, History, Humanities, Mathematics, Social Sciences, and more. 

“This program’s unique blend of art and science will enable students to create new and renovated buildings that honor the histories, cultures, values and experiences of the communities they serve,” Tedder said. “Graduates will be well-versed in meeting regulatory requirements, ensuring design accessibility and considering the environmental impacts of construction.” 

Community Elevation

FSC is reputed as a leader in engaged learning. This hands-on degree program “aims to set a benchmark in the field of architecture,” Tedder said. “The program’s use of the campus as a living laboratory for restoration also supports the college’s commitment to preserving Wright’s iconic structures and promoting educational programs that celebrate his legacy as America’s greatest architect.” 

Local architect Brad Lunz, president of The Lunz Group, said the new school will elevate the profession in Polk County and Central Florida. Only six universities across Florida offer accredited architecture degree programs, according to the American Institute of Architects Florida chapter.

“This school will build on the rich architectural history of the campus and develop a pipeline of talent in the community,” Lunz said. “The environment itself will develop high-quality talent that will help us grow. Kudos to Florida Southern for bringing such a worthwhile school to the campus.” 

Next Steps

FSC will conduct a national search to find a dean for the new school. It hopes to have 10 to 20 students in the undergraduate program. It also is waiting for approval on accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

“In the meantime, we look forward to advertising the program and sharing information about it to prospective students and the community,” Tedder said. He added that the campus “is a hub for architectural enthusiasts, serving as both a mecca and laboratory for those passionate about the art of architecture. Over the past 15 years, the mid-century modern campus has undergone intensive restoration efforts. It has thereby become a testing ground for innovative restoration techniques. Establishing a School of Architecture on a campus where Frank Lloyd designed such a significant collection of buildings in an academic setting will undoubtedly extend and enhance his legacy well into the 21st century.” 

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