Monday, October 3, 2011

Head for the Hill’s

Frank Lloyd Wright in Central Florida Highlands

by Irene Sperber

The only Planetarium FLW ever built (Florida Southern College)

Celebrated Miami architectural design photographer Robin Hill has exposed a surprisingly little known nugget in the mine of iconic Florida architecture. The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is nestled in a bucolic college town in the Central Florida Highlands. Photographer Hill traveled to Lakeland, Florida 12 times between 2001 and 2010 capturing a panoply of Wright’s organic architecture; shining a light on the need for loving kindness to protect and restore this mother lode of distinction. To raise funds and awareness, Hill approached the World Monument Fund, who added Florida Southern’s collection to their “most endangered site” list in 2007. Since then some restoration has taken place, but more is necessary to preserve and honor this icon of architectural history. World Monument Fund held an exhibition of Hill’s stellar images in the Charles Cowles Gallery in NYC at the same time (2009) the Guggenheim was exhibiting a tribute to Wright and his museum design for their 50th anniversary.

Hill had seven pieces in the Guggenheim’s “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward” exhibition which showed in New York and Bilbao. All the pieces were of Florida Southern.

FSC in Lakeland is the only college designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as the only theater-in-the-round that Wright ever built. Wright saw the campus as rising from the earth and aptly named it “Child of the Sun.” Twelve interconnected buildings protect students from the blistering sun, creating a lacework of design that only Wright could conjure.

I recently spoke with Hill about the project. For several more weeks, ten of his images and a video are on exhibit at the JSK Gallery and Studio in Coral Gables(by appointment only). The show is called “Floyd on Lloyd,” as Robin Hill used Pink Floyd songs (the ‘60‘s British rock band) to highlight the visuals. Inspired. “Another Brick in the Wall,” Robin!


Photographer Robin Hill found his way to Miami from Nottingham, England via life as a cruise ship photographer where he eventually met his wife. In 1992, after four years aboard, Hill disembarked for good onto Miami’s shores, a most fortuitous and exciting time in our evolution. He is no stranger to Florida historic preservation; Hill had just finished work on the MiMo project, (a book of mid-century buildings highlighted in the book MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, that, along with Hill, Randall Robinson co-authored with New York Times researcher Eric Nash), when Diane Smart, the President of the Broward Trust of Historic Places mentioned the Frank Lloyd Wright campus in Lakeland, and Hill was off to investigate yet another iconic architectural enclave.

Lakeland: The Story

In 1936 the President of Florida
Southern College (from 1925-’57),
Ludd Spivey, visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin home in the middle of the Great Depression with a vision to build a “college of tomorrow” in the hopes of ramping up college enrollment. A handshake cemented the deal for Wright to build a dream design for the Methodist campus. It quickly came into focus as ground breaking began in 1938 and the twelve buildings continued until completion in the late ’40’s. World famous, Frank Lloyd Wright was 69 and already greatly respected during this time.

More on the exhibiting JSK Gallery & Studio

JSK Architectural Group and its Principal Jorge S. Kuperman, AIA, are involved in promoting and exhibiting art in all of its forms related to Architecture. “Floyd on Lloyd” is the second of a series after a successful “Art by Architects” exhibition that took place last March 2011 as part of the Giralda Under the Stars event in Coral Gables.

Stained Glass

Jorge Kuperman says, “It is a fulfilling experience to be able to show, along the front of our Studio location in 137 Giralda Avenue in Coral Gables, art related to Architecture and give the opportunity to current as well as emerging artists to connect with the community by exhibiting their work of art.”

Robin Hill’s “Floyd on Lloyd” Exhibition at the JSK is on view by appointment only by calling 305.674.8549.

For more information:

Robin Hill Photography

Publication: Florida Southern College by Dale Allen Gyure

ALL PHOTOS BY ROBIN HILL from the Florida Southern College campus built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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