New 'Architectural Guidebook to Central Florida' shows off the region's most stunning structures

click to enlarge One of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings at Florida Southern College - photo by Lindsey Thompson
photo by Lindsey Thompson
One of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings at Florida Southern College
If you’ve never considered Orlando a location for great building-spotting, there’s a new book that might make you rethink that. The Architectural Guidebook to Central Florida collects more than 280 examples of stunning structures around the region, with photographs and essays by design professionals.

The guidebook includes historic downtown buildings from the early 20th century like Ferg’s Depot and the Bumby Building, which are unpacked from the old “Church Street Station” meme, a mental shift that was long overdue. As many pedigreed midcentury modern homes as are left standing are here too – fine residences are bulldozed daily to make way for McMansions, but many still make the cut. Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic Florida Polytechnic University and Florida Southern College, the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, are included in the book, along with Phillip Johnson and Michael Graves’s postmodern works for Disney and Celebration. And you’ll also find Isabel Roberts, one of Wright’s most trusted associates before she moved to Florida to strike out on her own. She and her partner, Ida Ryan, America’s first female architect, worked out of an office near downtown Orlando and designed the Unity Chapel on Lake Eola, among other buildings in the region.

click to enlarge Santiago Calatrava's Florida Polytechnic University - photo by Lindsey Thompson
photo by Lindsey Thompson
Santiago Calatrava's Florida Polytechnic University
Orlando Weekly arts writer Richard Reep, also a local architect, contributed to the book. “It manages to squeeze in a few good stories about the buildings and architects that make up our landscape as well,” he says. “Who knew that the supposedly heartless Leona Helmsley donated money to build the American Heart Association building on Marks Street, after her only son died of a heart attack while working in the downtown Harley Hotel? And hired Arquitectonica, a brash young (at the time) Miami firm to design it?”

The 316-page book includes addresses and maps, to aid self-guided tours. It was published by the Orlando chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Senior editor Greg Stock, who worked on the project for more than a year, says, “It took so long we had to edit the book a few times. Buildings kept getting knocked down, so it was getting shorter and shorter.” But the result is a fascinating snapshot of our region’s design character, and brings to life the sense of place that makes up our unique part of a unique state.


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Jessica Bryce Young

Jessica Bryce Young has been working with Orlando Weekly since 2003, serving as copy editor, dining editor and arts editor before becoming editor in chief in 2016.
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