How Did Massive Amounts of Student Urine Play a Role in the Design of Florida Southern College?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to architecture and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the architecture urban legends featured so far.

ARCHITECTURE URBAN LEGEND: Frank Lloyd Wright used massive amount of college student urine to treat the copper in his buildings at Florida Southern College.

It seems positively strange, but the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in one place is on the campus of the small private Methodist college, Florida Southern College, in Lakeland, Florida (Oak Hill Park in Illinois still has the largest collection of houses designed by Wright, but as you might imagine, a college campus has all of the buildings together, something that would not really be possible anywhere else).

The collection of buildings is called “The Child of the Sun” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here are a few of the pieces…

The story of HOW the buildings were built is pretty remarkable.

Wright was in his 70s, and obviously at the tail end of his career in 1938 when Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, the president of Florida Southern, offered Wright a challenge. He could not afford to pay Wright much, but he would offer him carte blanche in being able to design the “college of the future,” plus Spivey would offer up the entire student population as basically indentured servants to do any work Wright needed done that didn’t need to be done by specialists (when the male students went to war in World War II, the female population picked up the slack).

Wright, who tended to be a bit whimsical like that (especially later in life), agreed.

One of the most amusing stories in the whole deal is how Wright dealt with the aging of the copper he used in the buildings. If you did not know this already, urine reacts with copper to help along the aging process. Wright happened to be a major proponent of using urine to treat copper. So when Spivey said that the students were available to Wright in any way, I don’t think he expected that to include massive contributions of student urine!

And yet, that’s what happened – I suppose you could say that, in a way, there is a piece of all the students of Florida Southern College in their school!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

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