Southwest Florida Roundup
'Building on the past' at Florida Southern College
When New York-based architect Jeffrey Baker won the commission to design a computer science building at Lakeland’s Florida Southern College, the Frank Lloyd Wright scholar knew what he was up against. Not only would he have to design a building to complement Wright’s work — Florida Southern College is home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Wright buildings — but he’d also have to contend with some of the school’s other notable buildings, including four designed by Robert A.M. Stern, a former dean of the Yale School of Architecture.
“So, what I tried to do was essentially go back to basic concepts and elements and make it a very stunning but simple and elegant building,” says Baker, who also designed the college’s admissions center, which opened in 2017, and has been the lead architect for the restorations of Florida Southern’s 10 Wright buildings.
The result is a jewel-like structure, featuring a dramatic, cube-shaped atrium, framed in glass and red beams. The 13,000-sq.-ft. building is expected to open in 2020 as the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Computer Sciences Center. The college has not disclosed how much the building will cost.
Christian Roberson, chair of Florida Southern’s computer science department, says the building reflects both the college’s commitment to computer science and the department’s growth, up from about 40 students majoring in computer science in 2016 to 81 now. The college’s computer science course work has expanded, as well, and now includes cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. Apart from classrooms and learning spaces, the building will have a cyber-security and informatics lab.
“In terms of the new building, obviously the administration is committed to seeing us grow,” Roberson says. “Having this new modern space with all this cutting-edge technology is absolutely going to be a critical component of our recruiting.”
Read more in our March issue.
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