Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel

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Institution Name: Florida Southern College
Original/Historic Place Name: Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel
Location on Campus: West Campus - Johnson Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1941original construction Wright, Frank Lloyd
2001block restoration
Designer: Frank Lloyd Wright
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/pre-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, landscape
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: concrete textile block
Roof: built-up
 
Function:
ca. 1941-present (2006)chapel
 

Narrative:
From National Register report:

The campus is the result of a master development plan in which Wright intended to include eighteen buildings. The site originally consisted of an almost unspoiled orange grove along with a small number of brick structures which had already been completed by the college. The seven Wright buildings were constructed from plans between 1937 and 1955.

Wright was, throughout this period, preoccupied by his concept of "organic architecture." The construction and design of the campus was a tangible expression of Wright's concept that "...buildings would take on, in endless variety, the nature and character of the ground on which they would stand and thus inspired, become component parts" (Wright, The Living City, 112). The completed buildings do appear to harmonize with the natural setting not only in design but also in materials. The use of concrete and steel is the predominating mode in the construction of the buildings, but even more striking are the concrete blocks designed by Wright and produced by students on the campus during construction. The block was a two and one-quarter inch solid rectangle with slots on all sides. These slots contained one-quarter inch steel rods and were bonded together by cement. This technique was known as Wrights's "Automatic Building System" which was designed for speed of construction, flexibility, and the use of unskilled labor on the site. The first blocks were made with small pieces of colored glass inserted into spaces which gave a very striking effect. The second type was solid with embossed decoration and without the glass. These construction components were manufactured from local sand and some coquina, a native shell material common to Florida and used in building since the Spanish Period (Schweitzer, 2).

The individual buildings on the campus are tied together by covered esplanades. These concrete covered walkways connect all buildings providing protection from the sun and rain of Florida. The concrete roofs, trimmed in weathered copper, are supported by massive concrete columns which cantilever in two directions.

At the center of the complex is the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, the first building to be completed and the focal point of the campus. The two story concrete structure is dominated by a large rectangular lantern rising from the center. The tall two story concrete structure is dominated by a large rectangular lantern rising from the center. The tall concrete slabs are held together by diagonally placed steel rods supporting the walls and a massive skylight. Plants were to be hung in the lantern and allowed to trail along the iron trellis structure. The two story nave is hexagonal in plan with trancepts protruding to the north and south. The seating, composed of wood benches, filled the first floor trancepts as well as the galleries at the second level of the trancepts and the rear of the nave. Large overhanging balconies are evident on the exterior of the north and south trancepts. The external texture of the walls is varied through the use of the specially designed blocks with colored glass and smooth faces on the upper level walls. From 1957 to 1967 the chapel was air conditioned, the original seats were replaced with cushioned chairs, and the cypress and glass doors were replaced with aluminum and glass. The seating in the trancepts was removed for exhibit space and the podium was altered.
 

References:

Florida Southern College. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photos. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, [n.d.].

Florida Southern College: The First Hundred Years. Lakeland, FL: Florida Southern College, 1985.

Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly 12, no. 3 (2001).

Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Little, J. Rodney, and Phillip A. Werndli. Florida Southern College Architectural District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Rogers, Steven B. "The Frank Lloyd Wright Campus at Florida Southern College: A Child of the Sun." Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly 12 (Summer 2001): 4-23.

Smalling, Walter, Jr. Annie Pfeiffer Chapel [Florida Southern College]. Historic American Buildings Survey photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1979.

Sweeney, Robert L. Frank Lloyd Wright: An Annotated Bibliography. Art & Architecture Bibliographies, no. 5. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1978.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

 

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