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First look: Calatrava's futuristic Main Building opens at Florida Polytechnic University

The $60 million structure is wrapped in a bright-white, aluminum pergola for dramatic effect and solar shading.

August 12, 2014 |
 Santiago Calatrava, LLC

The new Florida Polytechnic University—whose 170-acre campus and iconic Main Building (pictured) were designed by architect Santiago Calatrava—will formally mark its opening on August 16 with a ceremony at the campus in Lakeland, Fla.

The university is Florida’s 12th and newest member of the State University System and will welcome its first students later in August.

The Main Building, also known as the Innovation, Science, and Technology Building, was finished on schedule and within the $60 million budget. Located on the north side of the campus' central lake, the exterior of the 200,000-sf building is made up of aluminum, aluminum cladding, concrete, and glass.

The interior is made of concrete flooring and columns, plaster, steel, and glass. It will function as the primary campus facility, housing classrooms, laboratories, offices, meeting spaces, and an amphitheater for larger events. On the second floor, offices and meeting rooms are arranged around the Commons, a large meeting space under a vaulted skylight.

The building has a pergola of lightweight aluminum trellis wrapping its exterior. The pergola not only adds character, but reduces the solar load on the building by 30%. It also has an operable roof, made of two sets of 46 aluminum louvers, which use the power of hydraulic pistons to move in relationship to the sun, and which can be fitted with solar panels. The operable roof helps to shade the skylight of the Commons from direct sunlight and to maximize daylight to the space.

Visible from the adjacent Interstate 4, the futuristic building has become a well-known feature in the local area and has already appeared in an ad campaign for a major automobile manufacturer, which used it as a backdrop for its commercial.

When designing the campus’ master plan, Calatrava made the most of the unique topography of the central Florida area. The campus lake offers dramatic views and serves as the primary storm water retention facility and as a storage vessel for site irrigation. The campus is connected by a series of pedestrian causeways and walkways, as well as a road circling the lake buffered by trees and greenery.

"I am honored to have been involved in this project dedicated to the study of science, technology, engineering and math—a set of subjects so crucial to our society and our economy," said Calatrava. "I am proud of what we have all achieved and I hope the young people that study here will be inspired to be creative and to meet their potential.”

Calatrava added: “Working with the visionary university leadership and amongst the enthusiastic Lakeland community has been a privilege and I wish everyone associated with this project the best of luck in coming years.”

Randy K. Avent, President of Florida Polytechnic University, said, “We’re extremely excited to be launching our new university this month. Santiago Calatrava has produced an inspiring learning facility, and we can’t wait to welcome our inaugural class for this first academic year. This is an institution and campus that all of us in Lakeland and across the state of Florida can be proud of.”


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