Located on a hillside overlooking Lake Hollingsworth, Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. The master plan for the institution, which included a complex of 18 buildings and was described by Wright as “the first uniquely American campus,” was created in 1938. It called for steel for strength, sand because it is native to Florida and glass to bring the outdoors inside.
“Child of the Sun” is the title for the group of buildings designed by Wright from 1938 through 1958. The first and most significant of the buildings, the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel, was constructed between 1939 and 1941. Over the next two decades nine more buildings were constructed around a central spectacular water dome fountain and connected by nearly 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) of esplanades. The buildings were largely built by Florida Southern students, many of whom worked as laborers in exchange for tuition.
The textile blocks that make up the buildings of the Florida Southern campus have not aged well, due in part to water infiltration that has corroded the iron bars that hold them together. Deferred maintenance and inappropriate repairs have exacerbated the deterioration. In addition to the technical challenges of conserving the textile blocks, the difficulty in sympathetically adapting the Wright-designed buildings for modern use presents an obstacle to the conservation program.
Although Wright’s master plan for Florida Southern College was never fully executed, the campus was Wright's longest commission and client relationship, spanning 30 years.