Florida Polytechnic University’s IST Building: Awe-Inspiring Architecture!

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This week I have a simply stunning piece of architecture to show you! It’s the Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) building at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.

In my post about the Airstream Ranch last week, I mentioned I’d seen sights along Interstate 4 recently I never knew existed. The IST at Florida Polytechnic was a prime example. (FYI: In the same post last week I also described the HDR digital photo process that gives photos a marvelous depth and interest. I used that process for the photo of the IST above.)ist calatrava

Looking for the world like a giant scarab beetle exoskeleton, the arches of the IST made me promise myself to come for a closer look – and for photos. So here I was with my best photo phriend, Paula Showen, combing the grounds and shooting some 300 photos of it. I’ve managed to pare them down to just 26 for this post.

We arrived around 3:00pm on one of the hottest, muggiest days yet this summer. We spent quite some time exploring the outer arches on the ground level first:fl polytechnic archesfl university pond

The IST’s designer was Santiago Calatrava, a well-known architect. His resume includes massive structures in far-flung places around the globe, including Seville, Toronto, Milwaukee, Dubai, Dallas and Rio. He designed a recently opened underground passageway near Ground Zero in NYC.

I unwittingly encountered one of his buildings in Zurich, Switzerland, a few years ago. He built a train station there. I remember photographing it but didn’t know anything about the architect at the time.

When the heat and humidity grew too much for Paula and me, we entered the building through what turned out to be the back door. The curves and arches and astonishingly symmetrical features were carried throughout the inside of the building. Even the reflections on the floors seemed designed to take our breath away!

calatrava corridor I love the punctuation of the colored seats at intervals in the corridors, which followed the oval shape of the building just inside the outer walls. Between the corridors in the center of the structure are glass-walled labs and technical classrooms filled with high-tech equipment – totally fitting for this steel marvel.calatrava polytechnic hallhallway calatrava istI love this shot of the model of the building in a glass case that reflects the actual arches and lines of the real-life building:calatrava model istTo my surprise, we found a stairway on the opposite end of the building (front) leading to a second level. I think this picture looks very art-deco:fl polytechnic ist stairUp there we found the library, which boasts not a single printed book, but lots of computers. Also lots of desks, tables, cubicles, electrical outlets and several chess sets. chessboard king pieces There were offices around the perimeter of this great, echo-y room. Overhead were more stark white ceiling struts supporting the glass of the roof. You can see the louver panels in this shot. I stood in the middle of the room and shot straight up:ist ceiling floridaThe louver “wings” atop the building can be moved via a hydraulic system to shield the sun from the roof. While we were there, we thought a sudden hailstorm had arisen. Turned out to be the louver panels moving. Quite noisy!

The building was opened to students in 2014 after the university spent about $60 million for it. I’ve seen a Dodge Ram commercial with tough, he-man pickups roaring about a construction site with this marvelous building in the background. It was evidently filmed before they put in the reflecting ponds.

Eventually we exited through a side door to the second-level deck where we could see the origin of the outer arches. Here you can see a louver panel above the arches:

ist louversEven the benches and trash cans were ultra-modern molded plastic in white. Here’s the second-level deck:fl polytechnic ist building upstairsThe building’s appearance constantly changes with the weather. Here’s a shot of the same deck when the sun forced its way through the gathering clouds:calatrava upstairs archesEven the shadows contribute to the overall symmetry. Wow! Then I saw these ferns growing up through the drainage grates near the outer wall of the upper deck (see above on the lower left):ferns on grate The ferns’ curves against the grate also reflected the design! I truly don’t think that was part of the overall plan, though.

Another iteration of the arches on the top deck: santiago calatrava polytechnicI made my way down a side staircase and noticed that the reflections in the glass upstairs continued the design. Was this on purpose? I don’t know but it’s so impressive! santiago calatravaRather than stay there and get heat stroke, we decided to visit the nearby Cracker Barrel and wait on sunset, which was about 8:30 that day. At 7:30 or so we headed back to campus, but by then menacing storm clouds were gathering:florida thunderstormflorida storm istWe waited out this very nasty storm in the car, antsy to be out photographing and wondering aloud and often whether we would be able to even see the sunset. Eventually the storm moved on, but we did not get direct light from the sunset. So we didn’t get to photograph the rays coming through the arches as we’d hoped. Instead, we got other dramatic pics like this one:fl polytechnic sunsetAnd this one:fl polytechnic istBut then Paula noticed the rainbow! Boy, we hoofed it all over and around the building to get rainbow shots before it went away. It stayed quite a while, and even brought a double along!SpotFixcalatrava florida

ist rainbow steel architecture rainbowThe IST is lit at night, so we ventured to the far end of the first reflecting pool at dusk. I set up directly across from the IST and got this shot:ist reflecting pond

We didn’t stay much longer than this, so I didn’t get a shot of the building all lit up in darkness. The reasons involve a combination of alligators and police officers, which I won’t go into here. However, we came safely home in a timely manner, exhausted but quite happy with our images. But I’m still going back for that night shot some day – when it isn’t so freaking hot!

A word of thanks to Crystal Lauderdale, Director of Marketing and Communications at Florida Polytechnic, for her quick and patient responses to my emails in preparation for this excursion. She made us feel welcome before we even showed up on campus!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:doll on semi tractor trailer

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15 Responses

  1. Ann

    How gorgeous, Karren! Both the building and your photos. I wonder what the sound level is like when the halls are filled with students.

  2. Eileen

    We drive by this structure at least once a month on our way to orchid judging in Apopka. VERY COOL to get a glimpse of the ultra modern interior. Thanks for sharing your most excellent photos!

  3. Andre Goode

    Great perspectives from the both of you. Not sure what problems you had with the University PD and taking some night shots. As a student at Florida Poly, I spend many hours in and around the IST building. Do you mind sending me a full-res version of some of these shots?

    • Karren Doll Tolliver

      Thanks, Andre. We didn’t really have any problem with campus PD – that was a joke. They were very kind and let us know they were looking out for us. Sorry, but I don’t have permission from the school to distribute the photos to anyone. Can you tell me what you wanted to use them for?

      • Andre Goode

        I keep a collection of nice photographs of my university campus for personal enjoyment (and to use as my wallpaper on my deviced). It’s an public campus—I don’t see why it would be a problem to share higher quality versions of the photos in your post.

        • Karren Doll Tolliver

          Hi, Andre! I can certainly understand why you would want photos of your lovely campus for your own enjoyment. And I’m very happy you like my photos so much! However, it’s actually a legal copyright issue. The university owns the rights to the building. They would have to give me permission to use the building in my images before I could distribute them, which is against university policy. Therefore, I can’t give you permission to use my photos of it, even for your own personal use such as wallpaper on your devices. Most of the public doesn’t realize that to download a picture from the web for any reason without the photographer’s permission is copyright infringement. On top of that, I am a professional photographer, so, even if I did have permission from the university, I would actually charge for the use of the images, especially a full-res digital file. I hope you can understand this. Thanks again for your interest!

  4. Kerri Goldsmith

    My son is one of the inaugural students at Florida Poly. The Innovation, Science & Technology (IST) building is the core of the campus right now, where they attend class, meet with their professors and administrators, have study groups, socials, and spend lots of their free time. The 2nd floor open area is the bookless library, surrounded by glass-fronted faculty offices. Each time I visit, I find myself taking more shots of the building from different locations around campus. It’s irresistible! I still remember getting goosebumps as we approached the newly completed building on opening day in 2014, after seeing it under construction for so many months. Your photos captured the architecture beautifully! Thank you for sharing your visit.

  5. Sally Potter

    I was lucky to watch the very beginning on this building being built. I had no idea what it was going to be. It is fantastic, awesome, unbelievable, futuristic. It’s located on I-4 between Plant City an Orlando….closer to Plant City.

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