Santiago Calatrava's Polytechnic University is an education landmark


n a state that has its share of architectural icons, Lakeland is doubly blessed. It is known for its Florida Southern College, a campus with nine structures designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright from the 1930s to 1950s. Now it has a new campus, the 170-acre Florida Polytechnic University, and a new superstar designer, Santiago Calatrava, to add to its résumé as an architectural destination.


Calatrava, a native of Spain, designed the 200,000-square-foot Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) building, which received its grand opening Aug. 16 in front of about 1,000 people, including Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida’s 12th state university, five miles northeast of Lakeland at the junction of Interstate 4 and the Polk Parkway, will welcome its first students Monday.

cala2Calatrava, known for designing buildings that are inspired by forms found in nature, used aluminum, concrete and glass on the exterior of the oval building. On the inside, the materials are concrete flooring and columns, plaster, steel and glass.

The structure will function as the primary campus facility, housing classrooms, laboratories, offices, meeting spaces and an amphitheater.

On the second floor, offices and meeting rooms are arranged around the “Commons,” a large meeting space under the 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 percent,” according to Calatrava’s office.

The roof is made of two sets of 46 aluminum shading louvers, moved by pistons to follow the sun. The operable roof helps to shade the Commons from direct sunlight while maximizing daylight to the space.

The building is visible from Interstate 4.

Calatrava designed the campus in 2009, and was paid a $13 million fee, according to The Ledger in Lakeland. The central feature is a lake that offers views and also is the main stormwater retention facility. Its water is used for irrigation. Pedestrian causeways and walkways interconnect the campus.

“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, who also is an engineer, in a statement released by the university.

The challenging building was brought in on time and within its $60 million budget because of an “open, collaborative effort” to solve construction problems, said Roger Webb, operations manager for Baker Concrete Construction. Baker was in change of building exposed concrete structures inside the building.

With infrastructure, the project has cost $100 million. Alfonso Architects of Tampa was the architect of record, representing Calatrava’s design concept to structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti; mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineer TLC, civil engineer Anderson Lane Inc., lab consultant RS&H, and construction manager/general contractor Skanska USA.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 23, 2014
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