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prahaboheme

Orlando Architecture

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I've thought about creating this thread for a while. I've always wanted to compile a list of buildings in Orlando and in the Orlando Metro area that reflect the style and feel of Orlando. Despite Orlando's relative "newness" it is a city with a unique history and many examples that span a plethora of architectural styles. It is my hope that through this we can discuss and critique Orlando's architectural contributions, and hopefully learn a thing or two.

To start things off, this has always been one of my favorite Orlando buildings and seems to be the source of much controversy:

Building Name: Orlando Public Library

Year: 1966

Architect: John M Johansen (a member of the Harvard Five which included Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson and Eliot Noyes who were all influenced by Walter Gropius, a leader of the Bauhaus movement) Wiki

Style: Brutalist Brutalist Architecture - Wiki

photos - exterior:

4067590860_495c777443_o.jpg

2183789209_f9b3704035.jpg

5023192_1b3c6f3fe8.jpg?v=0

29361171_451aebb9bd.jpg

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I've thought about creating this thread for a while. I've always wanted to compile a list of buildings in Orlando and in the Orlando Metro area that reflect the style and feel of Orlando. Despite Orlando's relative "newness" it is a city with a unique history and many examples that span a plethora of architectural styles. It is my hope that through this we can discuss and critique Orlando's architectural contributions, and hopefully learn a thing or two.

To start things off, this has always been one of my favorite Orlando buildings and seems to be the source of much controversy:

Building Name: Orlando Public Library

Year: 1966

Architect: John M Johansen (a member of the Harvard Five which included Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson and Eliot Noyes who were all influenced by Walter Gropius, a leader of the Bauhaus movement) Wiki

Style: Brutalist Brutalist Architecture - Wiki

photos - exterior:

4067590860_495c777443_o.jpg

2183789209_f9b3704035.jpg

5023192_1b3c6f3fe8.jpg?v=0

29361171_451aebb9bd.jpg

Great idea on the thread. Although our largest projects of the last few years tend to suffer from a Baker Barrios sameness with architecture geared to the bottom line (which admittedly is not BB's fault, it's the client's), Orlando is blessed with some architectural gems.

While I really liked the original version of the library, the 1980's expansion seemed too much to me. It was brutalism run amok and by taking up so much of the lot, just overwhelmed everything with a gray sameness. Since charrettes about design for downtown Orlando emphasized an "Orlando palette"" of colors which did not include gray, it seemed out of place in our environment. Longtime Library Director Glenn Miller didn't help matters by low-balling the furnishings in the new building and making it as gray and dungeon-like as he could. Again, understandable given the taxophobia of Orlando in the 80's but, despite being a longtime Friend of the Library, it wasn't much of a building I could love.

Well, as Walt once observed about Disneyland, the trees will grow - it will get better every year. That, happily, has happened, with the library. Over the years, as the Streetscape trees grew, and with the addition of the "Light Waves" on the Magnolia side along with posters indicating life within, the building has grown on me. Most importantly, with the interior renovations featuring more colorful carpeting, terrazzo floors and whimsical light fixtures, it has become much more inviting. Although the purists of Brutalism would be offended, I have always wondered if use of neutral paints might have been a plus in the Orlando subtropical environment - this isn't New York. It certainly improved the look of the Contemporary Resort.

The original building's entrance which required ascending a ramp on the Rosalind side also gave an uplifting (literally) presence as you went in that I missed when the entrance was moved to street level on Central in the expansion. Again, I understand the decision to do it for better access, but I think it took away from the original design.

All in all, though, it's definitely a unique building for downtown and, especially at night, when the lights through the many windows are visible, makes for a very interesting building.

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I do not think it is the clients fault, it is the markets fault. Look what was built with to high of expectations.

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Generally speaking, I've always been more fond of interior spaces in the brutalist style over the exterior of the buildings. There are exceptions, such as this building in the downtown crossing area of Boston:

boston-074.jpg

I also think the Orlando Public Library does a nice job of fitting in, somehow, in what is otherwise a downtown of softer exteriors. For me, the library's best contribution has to be the beautiful concrete interior lobby staircase with well appointed lighting that brings out the texture:

2596043757_6c506f7d3c.jpg

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I do think that the library is one of the few successful brutalist buildings. A lot has to do with the environment surrounding it - the Orlando Public Library has enough greenery and art to soften it and mesh it with it's surroundings. I am not sure I would consider the Boston 5 cents a true brutalist design. While it is concrete, it is more glass with concrete posts. And it's such a hodgepodge mixture of modern and historical on those blocks it all kinds of melds together. Boston City Hall, which lies but a few blocks north, is much more like the Public Library. And also much more hated.

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cloudship, the savings bank may have more glass, but it is still a brutalist design--and a successful one. That is the point.

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Good point Praha. The Boston example is Brutalism gone well as is the library. If anyone wants to see it taken to the extreme look at Montreal's Skyline. In a word: Drab. Always will be too because the Canadians embraced it a little too much. Maybe it's those long dark cold winters.

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A couple of thoughts from the pictures praha added from Boston. First, I note the way that building is angled on its site. I believe it was William Whyte who gave Mayor Bill the idea of such siting- in the first blush of downtown redevelopment, Mayor Bill and his crew prodded the developers of what is currently the Wachovia Building (20 N. Orange) and today's Seaside Bank Building (across from SunTrust and next to BB&T) to angle both on their respective sites. Sadly, OPL totally overwhelmed its lot, taking up everything on the streets surrounding it.

Also, the banners for the Borders bookstore and the open, glassy areas rising a couple of stories which invite passers-by to see what's inside. While OPL looks great at night when the lights are on indoors, and primarily from the larger expanses of windows away from the entrance, in broad sunlight at the entrance on Central it was originally anything but welcoming. The transients who were usually hanging about, often panhandling, before the library established a regular police presence didn't help matters - neither did all the smokers. As the trees have grown, they have also helped.

While the grand staircase looks great in pictures, the original just as gray carpeting did nothing to make you want to use it. I remember, in fact, going to some meetings of the Friends of the Library where officials inquired about our use of the stairway because the elevators were getting so backed up. The recent renovations with the much more attractive carpeting on the stairs, along with better lighting, I believe, have led to more use of the stairs (I know I always use it in my attempt to stay fit).

I recall reading that some cities (I have often seen Houston as an example, although I've never been there) are said to look great from a distance, like on a freeway, while, at street level, are anything but "approachable." In the pics, the Library can be said to look great. While the original, I think, looked good from a distance, it was also an accessible structure for those walking by. The expanded building was not as you approached it on Central. Again, it has gotten better in the past 25 years as the recent librarians have attempted to remedy its shortcomings.

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Also, the banners for the Borders bookstore and the open, glassy areas rising a couple of stories which invite passers-by to see what's inside. While OPL looks great at night when the lights are on indoors, and primarily from the larger expanses of windows away from the entrance, in broad sunlight at the entrance on Central it was originally anything but welcoming. The transients who were usually hanging about, often panhandling, before the library established a regular police presence didn't help matters - neither did all the smokers. As the trees have grown, they have also helped.

You are very correct about the banners on Borders helping. During most of the non-snowy season they often have book carts outside, which create a kind of public interface. This brings a lot of life to that square, and it becomes a focal point of the city. There are plenty of transients and smokers who hang out there, but that does not hurt too seriously the atmosphere, in fact it kind of gives a bit of street performance to the memorial.

This is why I think the Orlando Public Library is a successful building. It does have a decent interface with the street, it has greenery to soften it up. It doesn't overwhelm it's location. Perhaps these kind of traits are what should distinguish Orlando architecture - not so much the shape or style of the buildings themselves, but how they interfa ce with the street they sit upon - creating a kind of interaction with the public.

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By the way...all are encouraged to contribute here, especially if you have buildings you'd like to discuss. Otherwise I'll just continue to post what comes to mind.

Next Up:

Building Name: Celebration Place

Location: Celebration, FL, Osceola County

Architect: Aldo Rossi

Year: 1996

Style: Postmodern

CelebrationPlace.jpg

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I've long been fascinated by this office complex not only for it's monumental nature alongside Highway 192 but also because at first look it seems like a complete rejection of the town in which it lives: neo-traditional Celebration. Celebration is, of course, the infamous new urbanism town famous for it's former affiliation with the Disney Co., and often criticized as artificial, phony, etc. What often seems to be overlooked about Celebration is that it's become an architectural showcase by international architects the likes of Philip Johnson, Graham Gund, Robert Stern, Cesar Pelli, and Aldo Rossi. Each of their contributions hold it's own place in our discussions of Orlando architecture, so for this post I am going to exclude the whole of Celebration and stick only to Celebration Place in hopes that we can return to some of these other architects at a later date.

"Rossi's exploration of the simple shapes and architectural elements is also a statement on architecture itself. While Libeskind and Fuksas might spend days and weeks and months making sure their buildings do not look like buildings, Rossi struggled throughout his career to apprehend and communicate in his designs the essence of the basic components of the built environment--walls, columns, floor and roof slabs, and hallways, porticos, windows and doorways. Hence...repetitive and exaggerated gestures (which many fail to see as more than caricatures). In this way, Rossi was similar to the Russian Suprematists and the Dutch Neoplasticists, who painted compositions of lines and planes in basic colors to achieve spiritual effects."

Source: ARCHITECTURAL FINDINGS

"In his writings Rossi criticized the lack of understanding of the city in current architectural practice. He argued that a city must be studied and valued as something constructed over time; of particular interest are urban artifacts that withstand the passage of time. Rossi held that the city remembers its past (our "collective memory"), and that we use that memory through monuments; that is, monuments give structure to the city."

Source: Wiki

After some thought I've come to the conclusion that Rossi's work at Celebration is two fold. His exploration of basic city shapes and building forms is an obvious node to Celebration's goal of building a traditional community sustainable in the 20th/21st Century. Second, the exaggerated and almost "animated" nature of this office complex is a critique on local vernacular (i.e. the whimsical buildings along 192 and even Disney's corporate presence--the casting center and Team Disney). It seems he may be attempting to bridge the gap between the outside world and the town of Celebration.

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I have recently driven by Celebration Place multiple times in the past few weeks and wanted to comment on how freaked out by it I was at first. But freaked out in a good way because I would love to see the Metro Orlando take on an architectural style all of it's own in the present and future.

First time seeing it, I felt like the whole entire complex was MASONIC. Meaning, it reminded me of the many pre-Modern temples and monuments of the past. I am probably in the minority here, but I think something like this, some post-modern structure, would be pretty cool and would love to see this in Downtown Orlando, in some way, shape or form.

I don't know what to say.....is there any more information on the philosophy and design behind this cool structure?

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DeepEyez I have the same reaction to these buildings as you do -- Aldo Rossi was an architect interested in deconstructing buildings to their shapes, and exploring how individual shapes make up a larger piece. I think Celebration Place is perhaps his best work, but I think it is overshadowed by a lot of the negative criticism of Celebration which is why there is so little you will find about these buildings online or in architectural magazines.

I think Rossi really captured the essence of Central Florida in Celebration Place.

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There is an art exhibit right now at the Cornell Museum at Rollins that has a decent size exhibit featuring the Celebration Office Complex.

From the press release...

"The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College announces the opening of MASTER/Plan: Visionary Architects and their Utopian Worlds. Sustainable architecture, urban planning, and utopia are explored in an exhibition of models,

drawings, and animations by six leading contemporary architects (Paolo Soleri, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Michael Graves, Morris Adjmi, Geoffrey Warner of Alchemy Architects, and Chad Oppenheim). This exhibition sheds light on the creative and practical processes involved with community planning today. Visitors will be able to design their own utopian city using an interactive display by Alchemy Architects."

Morris Adjmi is given most of the credit for the Celebration design but Rossi, his former partner, is also mentioned. The exhibit also has a great model of the Eco-Bridge designed for Chicago designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. The Eco-Bridge has some great ideas that could be used in Orlando and Tampa.

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What about some good mid-century architecture - particularly the "Googie" and "Populuxe" stuff? I know there were some mid century modern larger buildings, any thing survive on the smaller scale?

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What impact will the Amway Center have on Orlando Architecture?

I think it was influenced by the Dynatech Centre (whatever is being called these days). The garage has its own feel, though, so maybe that will be an influence onto future development.

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Both of which were influenced by Baker Barrios, who seems to have a hold on all major construction projects in this city.

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Both of which were influenced by Baker Barrios, who seems to have a hold on all major construction projects in this city.

I consider Baker Barrios to be a hindrance to any good architecture happening in Orlando. All of the projects they did during the boom that I wanted to get excited about turned out to be eyesores (ie. 55 West) that looked better as renderings. I think they're at their best with smaller condo projects like 101 Eola.

What other architecture firm in the state can compete with Baker? Why do they have such a hold on this area?

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RLF have designed most of the impressive buildings in the Orlando metro recently: RLF Architects

Baker Barrios is very connected to city development, and city on the CRA (or was).

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What other architecture firm in the state can compete with Baker? Why do they have such a hold on this area?

Arquitectonica is a prominent international architecture firm headquartered in Miami. They've had a hand in so many buildings down here they're like the Baker Barrios of South Florida. The difference is that they make attractive buildings (mostly). Here are some examples of their work:

American Airlines Arena

american_airlines_arena2_920_thumb.jpg

Icon Brickell

4483353834_075a70601c_b.jpg

Marina Blue

marina-blue.jpg

Miami Federal Courthouse

miami-federal-courthouse-6964870.jpg

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BBArch is the ugly step sister of Arquitectonica. In fact most of their designs are better suited for a coastal Florida city, if any of those said cities would take them. RLF Architects, Rhodes & Brito, and a few others understand Orlando and Central Florida much better. Instead of trying to be flashy and create a signature style (like BBArch), they understand the context of their surroundings and build sustainable structures that complement the urban environment where they are located. Hell, even Robert Stern and Associates spent time understanding Central Florida when they undertook the Celebration project. What would it have turned out to be if BBArch were Celebration's master planner?

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Why do they have such a hold on this area?

During the boom, there were plenty of projects that were designed by other firms. Lots of them were never built. A good architecture firm is not only about pretty pictures, it is also about designing buildings that can be constructed. My guess is that Baker is client driven and design so a project is realistic. What I mean is that they would not design an office building that would costs $250 hard costs when the market is $200 sf. Other then that, I do not know why they are more succesful vs other firms here.

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During the boom, there were plenty of projects that were designed by other firms. Lots of them were never built. A good architecture firm is not only about pretty pictures, it is also about designing buildings that can be constructed. My guess is that Baker is client driven and design so a project is realistic. What I mean is that they would not design an office building that would costs $250 hard costs when the market is $200 sf. Other then that, I do not know why they are more succesful vs other firms here.

They are more successful because they are on the downtown development board.

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^Precisely.

This is hardly the "failure" of other firms to meet their clients needs.

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I hope the next stage in downtown Orlando development strives to compete with Miami beauty or, at the least, modernize in unique ways.The City Beautiful should be a BEAUTIFUL CITY, in my opinion.

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