Orlando may not be the first place you think of when it comes to great architecture. But it would be a mistake to think there are no fantastic – as well as wild and wacky – buildings in this city. Some of them are in town while others you’ll probably need your own transport to get to, so arrange your car hire within Orlando to get out and discover! Here are some of the best buildings in the city and around.
Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World was an unusual nominee for top building in Florida, but it was one of four entries from Orlando. It is certainly a fitting choice, as so much of the image of Orlando is defined by its entertainment and amusement sector. So if you’re visiting Walt Disney World, be sure to check it out. The castle is inspired by that featured in Disney’s Cinderella, and it has become an iconic feature of the park itself. Spires and turrets soar into the blue sky, while surrounding the castle a moat and landscaped gardens draw you closer. This is a place of magic and enchantment, of fairy tales and dreams.
The three more conventional nominees for Florida’s top building were the Orlando Public Library, US Courthouse and Orange County Convention Center. The Orlando Public Library is the largest public library in Florida, filling an entire city block, and has been on its original site since 1923, though the current building dates from 1966. It was closed for renovation in 1985, opening again in 1986. The architects were challenged to blend their design with the original design from 1966, and this was achieved successfully with the new exterior walls blending neatly with the old.
The US Courthouse, dating from the 1970s, has recently been overhauled to turn it into a superb example of contemporary architecture. At its new entrance a courtyard features a huge steel sculpture, over 10 metres tall and 16 metres long, by Ronald Bladen. The sculpture, “Host of the Ellipse”, originally stood in a federal building in Baltimore, but it fits its new home perfectly. Other dramatic touches include the large stained glass window. The new building also wins points for energy efficiency, thanks to features such as insulated window units, additional insulation, occupancy sensors, a water collection cistern and solar panels.
The Orange County Convention Center is the second largest in the country, with 650,000 square metres of space. It is actually two buildings that are linked by a sky bridge. The original building dates from between 1983 and 1996, while the new building opened in 2003. The main exhibition hall achieves its column-free grand space by the use of enormous steel trusses.
Over in Winter Park, Rollins College has a number of architecturally notable buildings. Knowles Chapel was also a contender for Florida’s top building. Dating from 1931 or 1932, it is a National Historic Place and distinctive for its Mediterranean Revivalist style. The Olin Library, dating from 1985, follows a number of other library buildings and is built in Spanish-Mediterranean style.
Casa Feliz was Winter Park’s other nominee. It is a beautiful historic house, built in the design of a Spanish farmhouse, designed by James Gamble Rogers. Picturesque and beautifully evocative of the Mediterranean with its Spanish roof tiles and whitewashed bricks, it also has a turret, bell tower and extensive balcony. Today it is a museum so you can explore the interior, with its magnificent features including heavy beams, arches, circular staircases and the interior courtyard.