Tuesday, August 20, 2013

FavFive: Orlando's Architectural Highlights

As an architect, the day to day isn’t as glamorous as most think (hey, we can’t all be Ted Mosby). However, it’s when you think about how others who’ve come before you have shaped the built environment you realize it’s a pretty exciting opportunity to have a hand in creating such a large, inhabitable work of art. So, to kick off this FavFive series, I decided to first focus on my immediate surroundings where I work and play: Downtown Orlando. There’s a little bonus at the end…for the road.

1. American Federal Building aka The Round Building
Year 1963
Design Frank Sheehy under Bob Murphy. This firm still exists today as HuntonBrady Architects.
Notes Sometime in the 70s the upper glass section was added.

I can’t help but pause to look at this iconic building every time I drive down Orange Ave. The curved, geometric façade is striking to say the least. Unfortunately, this building is slated for demolition as it occupies the southwest corner of the site of the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center (DPPAC). This news outraged saddened a number of local "lovers of modern architecture" and they have been working hard to devise a plan to salvage and repurpose the 120 precast concrete brise soleil panels. The Nils M. Schweizer Fellows is a local nonprofit whose purpose is to create awareness and seek the preservation of such buildings in Central Florida. You can check out NEXTROUND and even contribute financially to help preserve this part of Orlando’s mid-century modern architecture. Their gallery has some fascinating images of the Round Building under construction many decades ago as well as a variety of design ideas for the panels’ future use.

Speaking of Orlando’s exceptional mid-century modern architecture, check out the Nils M. Schweizer Fellows at Central Florida Modern to get a taste of the vast collection they showcase and learn about the organization’s namesake.

2. Rogers Building
Year 1886
Design William Mullins

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this metal-clad building adds a nice pop of color among its concrete, brick, and glass neighbors. In a Queen Anne style, it was first owned by Gordon Rogers, an English immigrant. The façade is made up of zinc panels, something uncommon in the US and more so in Florida. Originally a gentleman’s club, it is now home to Gallery At Avalon Island.

3. George C. Young Federal Courthouse 
Year 1970s
Renovation 2012 by DLR Group

This building has a warm place in my heart because as a member of the architectural team I had the opportunity to work on the design and observe its construction phase. A new entry pavilion and circulation tower were added to the existing 1970s courthouse. The full extent of the renovation included removing interior walls, ceilings, and systems and replacing the windows. With the entry moved to the courtyard side by the addition of the pavilion, the whole building now has a grand and updated presence fit for a Federal Court. Additionally, the courthouse is expected to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification.

4. Kress Building
Year 1936
Design Edward Sibbert­­

Unusual in its L-shape, the Kress Building has 2 facades, one on Orange Avenue and the other on Church Street. In an Art Deco style, the decorative terra cotta elements are the jewels of the façade. In such a disposable era, it’s wonderful to see a building of this age (not unlike many others downtown) still in use as it continues to live on.

5. Orlando Public Library
Year 1966
Design Johansen
Expansion 1985 by Schweizer and Associates

You either love or hate this building. There are those who think the rough concrete is cold and looks unfinished. However, I love the color and texture of the rustic rough-hewn cedar pattern of the poured concrete walls. There’s something beautifully archaeological about the wood striations embedded forever in the concrete. The library has a wonderful stoic permanence and works well in its urban context, making it perfect for a large institutional building in any city.

Fun fact: At 290,000 square feet, this facility is the largest public library building in the state. You can use that tidbit to settle all future "mine’s bigger than yours" arguments with your non-Central Florida frenemies. You’re welcome.

For the Road

If you're itching to take a road trip this weekend (or any other), consider heading down to Lakeland, FL to explore the campus of Florida Southern College. It is best known for having the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings. Simply amazing! Visit the “Child of the Sun” Visitor Center for information on guided (paid) and self-guided (free!) tours. I highly recommend the guided tour as the guide is a wealth of knowledge and shared some fascinating personal anecdotes about the campus and architect. You won’t regret it!

Ashley Pollard is an Intern Architect at the DLR Group in Orlando, Florida. You can follow Ashley on her architectural travels on instagram and check out her crafts at etsy.


  1. Other Orlando treasures: the Ferran Building and the PUSH building (immortalized in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon http://www.zippythepinhead.com/media/FLPushBldg.jpg )

  2. Great finds, thanks for sharing!

  3. Some other great ones: The Orlando Chamber of Commerce designed by Nils Schweizer, The Tinker Building, The Angebilt, The old courthouse (the History Center), and the Church Street depot. Glad you picked the Library- it doesn't get enough love in my opinion!

    1. These are a great sampling as well and will likely be featured in the future! I agree about the library and almost like it *because* others don't...if that makes sense.

  4. Nice list. I love the Roger's building. It's a unique structure downtown.

  5. Here is another Nils Schweizer Architectural Masterpiece, A true Nature Retreat located in DeLand, FL Nils Schweizer Nature Retreat

  6. I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! Ocala steel buildings