Robert A.M.Stern's new dorms at FSC

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DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Robert A.M.Stern's new dorms at FSC

Post by DRN »

Last week, a sudden death in our family brought my wife and me to Lakeland, FL. Amid the family business, we did have the opportunity to walk the campus at FSC for an hour. We walked the esplanades, saw the water dome (bundt cake), paused in Annie Pfeiffer to enjoy the scale, and looked at the samples of the replacement blocks. What I was most struck by however, were the two new dorms along the lakefront by Robert A.M.Stern Architects.

I'll stick my neck out and say they were very good. The buildings do not slavishly mimmick Wright. They reference their architectural environment with careful gestures; a roof overhang here, a pierced roof there, some red metal, some tan stucco... but the main point is the buildings are very respectful of the site and the context. No heroics. No currently fashionable doodads or contortions. Just sensible (I'll say urban) design...it is obvious the buildings were designed to house a large program but they still do not dominate the lakefront or the campus. Siting, massing, facade colors and articulation seemed to be carefully orchestrated to minimize the bulk of the buildings and allow them to bleed into the greenscape. I found it interesting that the articulation of the facades worked both ways: looking at the buildings from across the lake, and looking from the campus out to the lake.

I sent some pics to SDR to post.

Thoughts?

Paul Ringstrom
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Location: Mason City, IA

Post by Paul Ringstrom »

What did you think of the new Archives Building next to the Library? Did you take any photos of it?

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

I saw the Archives building and took some pics. It is just up the hill from the Admin building and the water dome. It is constructed to appear as an annex to Nils Schweizer's Roux Library building. I liked it, though its designer took a different approach than Stern.

I guess due to the strong forms and monumental scale of the library, the Archives building designer decided to design a gutsy building. It is detailed as a mix of materials and pieces of both the Wright and Schweizer buildings, with some currently fashionable sunshades on its curtainwall and a big trelissed "visor" thrown in. I didn't find the Archives buildings's ties to the campus as subtle as Stern's, but I did appreciate the gesture of curving the west wall of the building to maintain the view shed to Wright's composition of the Admin building, light spire, waterdome, and Pfeiffer chapel from the corner of Johnson and McDonald. See the site plan at this link:

www.flsouthern.edu/map/index.htm

I'll send my pics of this to SDR for posting as well.

The overall effect is more of the same of the library, but with some smaller scale details borrowed from Wright to "humanize" a large scale building. I actually felt more comfortable walking up close to the Archives building than the original Schweizer library, probably because the smaller scale details brought the base down to a human scale. I guess it should be kept in mind that the school is much larger than it was in 1938-1959 and building growth is inevitable. Wright's buildings have a delicate, handmade quality about them that is missing in Schweizer's work. It should be noted that Schweizer's buildings due to their programs tend to be taller and larger than Wright's (the Admin building is almost residential in scale). Though the Archives building is more literal in its ties to the campus, I feel Stern's dorms really got the spirit of the place.

The Archive building site was tough though....what do you do at the front door of a Wright landscape, with tiny Wright icons, a hulking primary function building by an apprentice, and a large program? Wallflower that I am, I'd probably have utilized the hill and terraced and buried as much as I could with clearstories in the terrace walls to let as much light in as possible.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Considering the designs that made Robert A M Stern notorious, the dorms are quite nice and sedate. Not quite Aalto at MIT, but good enough.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

DRN's photos of the Archives Center:


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flwright
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Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

Post by flwright »

Hmmm... good to see these turned out reasonably well. A little plain for my taste, however, particularly on the sides of the building -- they look great from a distance in context but seem lacking up close. Stern is designing a controversial new world headquarters for Irving Oil here in Saint John on a prime piece of waterfront land and I've been more than a little dubious of its design. It looks a lot like some of the 1980's brutalist stuff with more glass and plants on the roof. Maybe it won't be as bad as I think its going to be...

http://longwharf.ca/
Morgan

Paul Ringstrom
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Location: Mason City, IA

Post by Paul Ringstrom »

The new Archives building looks "dynamic" while the dorms don't.

IMHO there is not enough articulation in the vertical surfaces of the dorms.

Randolph C. Henning
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Post by Randolph C. Henning »

Judging from the posted images - IMHO, the new dorms could of / should of been much, much better. All flat surfaces, little if any articulation, wrong colors, inappropriate token homage to FLlW here and there. A very sterile solution. No human scale. And it appears that they were oriented perpendicular to the lakefront, restricting views of the lake from the dorm rooms. What's up with that? Does anyone know if the mid-century modern Robert Law Weed lakefront FSC buildings were demolished to make way for these? If so, another real pity. The Archives building is a better and more refined building - responding appropriately to Schweizer's library.

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

SDR: Many thanks for posting the pics for me.

Paul's comment about dynamicism in the Archives building vs. the dorms is significant. I wonder if the architectural context along the lakefront was more robust, if Stern's approach would have been different. Other than Schweizer's fortress-like stagehouse, the buildings along the lakefront are rather calm and nondescript. By contrast, a lot is going on architecturally at the Archives site.

My only major criticism of the Archives building is the color and texture of the curved concrete wall...it is standard cold gray concrete with a large scale cast pattern of rectangles. I thought a warmer color stain or tint of the concrete would be less jarring, and a more articulated (read small AND large scale) pattern on the concrete would harmonize better...still a good building and an appropriate response to the context. The architect for the Archives building is Straughn Trout Architects http://www.straughntrout.com/, a Lakeland firm with a neat looking office building near the funeral home I unfortuntely frequented.

I can see the comments about the plainness of dorm's vertical surfaces...but it did appear that the stucco walls were attempting to visually tie to the existing plain retaining walls that line the drive up to Wright's Science/Planetarium building loading dock. In light of Mr. Henning's comments, I should note the dorms are sited at an angle to the lake, such that the "southern" walls present a broad side to the lake, and the "north" walls have sawtooth offsets to provide corner windows to the lake. The site plan (linked above) gives the Stern dorm locations as "under construction"...I'm not sure if these occupy the site of the mid-century modern buildings noted.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Do I detect, on most of the exterior surfaces of both projects, a common paint color -- a slightly olive-y light tone ? Would this be intended to match
(or harmonize with) existing Wright or non-Wright structures ?


SDR

DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

From what I could tell during my brief visit, the "olive" paint seems to be exclusive to the Stern buildings. It seemed as if the color was being used to blend with the prevailing color of the foliage. In fact, the completed dorm, Wesley Hall, had 2 colors on the siding and masking tape identifying the color#'s, as if the color was being reconsidered. The majority of the olive color has a yellow tone and what I presume to be the alternate is a cooler olive with the yellow proportion significantly reduced.

Most colors through out the site are "Wright beige", except for Schweizer's white precast concrete, and the Archives building's repro Wright blocks which are cast in a "Wright beige" rather than the original's darker tan.

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