Long-Awaited Restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright Waterdome to begin at FSC
LAKELAND, Fla. (June 20, 2006) — The Florida Southern College plaza and fountain area in front of E.T. Roux Library will be demolished Wednesday, June 21, as work begins on the historic restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary architectural and engineering endeavor, the Waterdome. Work will begin at 9:30 a.m. to remove the concrete plaza, enabling the return of what was considered by Wright as “the organic focal point of the campus”: a large circular pool ringed with jets to create a spectacular dome of water.
This restoration marks the beginning of the college’s Master Restoration Plan, in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of Wright’s relationship with the college. The relationship began with then college president Ludd M. Spivey’s historic telegram to Wright in 1938, asking Wright to design “a great education temple” on the FSC campus. This summer, the college is launching a thorough historical and structural analysis of all Wright’s structures on campus, in order to determine how to respect the historic integrity of the resource while meeting the demands and conveniences of modern-day uses. Additional Frank Lloyd Wright restorations on campus this summer include repairs to the covered walkways, or “esplanades,” linking Wright’s structures, funded by a $1.6 million budget appropriation from the State of Florida.
As a metaphor for the journey of student life, Wright intended the Waterdome to draw water from a deep artesian well and form the headwaters of an elaborate composition of “matriculating” streams and pools through campus to its natural counterpart in Lake Hollingsworth. The small planters and “paradise garden areas” he planned would be, “an expression of Florida at its floral best.”
The Waterdome, dedicated as the J. Edgar Wall Waterdome, was completed in its original form in 1948. Due to the inadequacy of available engineering to correct an overspray problem, the jets were soon turned off. With the construction of the new E. T. Roux Library in 1968, the single pool was divided into three smaller ponds with central fountain heads surrounded by a large concrete plaza. Today, only a portion of the original concrete perimeter of the pool is visible.
Work to restore the Waterdome to its original, revolutionary design is funded by a $350,000 gift from an anonymous donor, with a matching grant from the State of Florida. Updated engineering will allow the jets to function properly and for the fountain to regain its place as the symbolic center of Wright’s campus plan. Additionally, private donors have contributed funds to build a Cyber Café in front of the Waterdome and adjoining the college’s E. T. Roux Library, to reestablish the west side of campus as a hub for student life.
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