Saturday morning we got up a bit earlier than usual… to watch a 2:11am launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It was to deliver tons of stuff (literally TONS) to the International Space Station. They’ve postponed it several times, and this time it actually went!
From our campground we can look over the water to the peninsula where the launch site is. I didn’t know what to expect in the way of noise… and it really wasn’t loud at all! We could see the brilliant fireball as it rose in the sky, and then it went dark. A moment later, the stages separated with a beautiful fireworks show, and the missile zoomed off. Then the first stage booster came back and landed on its barge, just over the horizon. I attempted to document this whole adventure on video… I will warn you – If you want to see great footage here, check it out on YouTube. But this little video was fun for me, because I saw and filmed it! The focusing and aiming was hard to do in the dark, and some of it looks like I was shooting with one hand while trying to watch with binoculars in the other. Can’t imagine how I know that. So watch at your own risk…
Don’t Judge a Sub by Its Cover
We had lunch near the campus of Florida Southern College, in this funky little place called “Subs and Such”. It looked delightfully tacky and kind of run down, but had awesome food, and the proprietor was great fun to talk with. Really glad we decided to step out of the comfort zone a bit and try it!
Frank Lloyd Wright
Florida Southern College has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. I’ve alway loved his work, and to find this great “collection” only an hour and a half from our campsite – well, we had to see it!
He designed a lot of the college campus, and had grand plans for many faculty homes to surround the campus. He called them “Usonian Houses”; his take on new all American architecture unburdened with traditional designs. On this campus, he envisioned them sort of symbolically surrounding and supporting the students. In the late 30’s and early 40’s he estimated the houses would cost about $20K each to build, and you could buy an existing home in the area for about $5K. The college didn’t have money for that sort of extravagances, so none of the faculty homes were built. He designed and built many of the classrooms, labs, administration buildings and two chapels. He loved locally sourced building materials, so most all the walls are made from concrete incorporating local sand.
This is the largest of the two chapels:
As with most of the structures he designed on campus, there are little panels of brightly tinted cast glass that add bright spots of color in the sand colored walls.
The campus is connected with “Esplanades” – covered walkways with the roof low and cantilevered off interesting pillars with angular geometric shapes. It’s very important to watch where you are going, because if your head was in a book (or iPhone??) you could easily bonk your head on fascinating architecture!
If you were running down the esplanade, you could leave your scalp on one of these zig-zag rooflines!
The college had some more conservative buildings before Wright got started:
More traditional architecture often had a dome as the focal spot of the building. He felt pressure to add a dome or two, and he really disliked them. He was all about long, low, flowing horizontal lines. Wright finally gave them two domes… One in the planetarium, and one made of water! I think he designed the Water Dome with a wry smile to shut up those who tried to influence his designs!
All the unsightly vents and A/C ducts on the buildings have been added to bring the buildings up to current standards. Frank would turn over in his grave if he could see them!
The Usonian House
A few years ago the Wright foundation decided to build one of the faculty houses that Wright had designed and not been able to build. It cost them over $1.2 million to do it exactly as Wright had wanted, with a couple of enhancements like air conditioning (unheard of in Wright’s time).
Wright loved to “Bring nature inside”. He loved designs that seemed to grow out of the site, and using materials native to the surroundings. He also was a serious control freak… He designed all the furnishings for the house, and dictated where they would be placed. He built a lot of the furniture into the house – it looked cool, fit well, and couldn’t be moved elsewhere! In this house the couch and the dining room table were built in. It is said that he visited as a house guest some homes he’d built a year or two earlier, and in the morning the hosts would be surprised to find some non-Wright furniture that they’d added, moved out to the street!
The design incorporates some psychological tricks; the most interesting is “compression”. The entry is a bit tight… the ceiling is low and the area is fairly dimly lit. He wanted you to feel slightly uncomfortable there, and feel compelled to move onward. When you enter the main living area, you almost want to say “Wow!” because it is so wide open. This is where you are supposed to relax and feel like staying. One large open area, higher ceilings, and a whole wall of glass giving the impression the room extends outside. This is both the living area and dining room, with seating areas dictated by the built-in furniture. The kitchen is right off the dining area, and is quite small and utilitarian. He felt that was a “Service Area”, and really just a necessary evil. At least he put it where anyone “slaving away” in the “service area” would be fairly close to others who were in the living room.
Both bedrooms are small, because they are only for sleeping! Awake time should be spent in the living room! Each bedroom has a wall of floor to ceiling windows, which when opened with the similar windows in the front of the house, would let breezes cool as well as could be expected in pre-A/C Florida. None of the windows had curtains or drapes; he hated those. Privacy was expected to be provided by planting bushes and trees as needed. Again, the bathroom is somewhat small, and has almost no storage areas compared to current standards. He hated clutter, so thoughtfully presented no surfaces to collect junk.
Lots of gorgeous flowers are found in the shady gardens. I believe this is called a “Peace Lily”