After the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville, architects and builders from across the nation came to rebuild the city, bringing state-of-the-art building technologies and the latest architectural styles to shape a new modern city. A half-century later, a new generation of young architects made their way to Jacksonville after World War II. They were inspired by some of the vanguards of modern architecture, and they set about redesigning Jacksonville using advanced engineering, high-tech materials, and clean, brilliant design.
Post-War optimism set the stage for creating buildings that were at once flamboyant and carefully conceived. This architecture of the mid-century was steeped in idealism, attuned with nature, and astonishing in its originality.
In the five decades since the Great Fire, Jacksonville’s architecture had fallen into uninspired blandness; then three young architects came to Jacksonville and emerged as champions of a new vision. After studying with some of the most important minds of the twentieth century, these three men saw the opportunity to rebuild this city once again in an entirely modern direction. There were other talented architects in Jacksonville during the 1950s and ’60s, of course. But Robert C. Broward, Taylor Hardwick, and William Morgan were extraordinarily gifted and were quickly recognized as being innovators. They became the local leaders of an architectural movement that is retrospectively called Mid-Century Modern architecture.
In the strictest sense, they were competitors with each other in a small
market that was slow to embrace radical ideas. But, more importantly, they became lifelong close friends, and their camaraderie far outweighed their competitiveness. They stimulated and inspired each other. Even though their building designs were often quite different, their devotion to the highest principles of their profession, and their steadfast artistic ethics earned all three of them great respect from their colleagues and from the community as well. Each of the three had their work published nationally in professional journals and the popular press.
Robert Broward grew up in Jacksonville, a member of one of Florida’s
oldest families. He studied architecture at Georgia Tech. He went on to apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin (both East and West) and returned to his hometown with a passion for designing buildings that were honest, inventive, and respectful of their environment. His inspiration from Wright was at the heart of his exploration of organic design, and his thoughtful devotion to his profession has enriched the careers of many younger architects. Broward also authored several books about Jacksonville, and he was very much involved in historic preservation. In 2012, he was inducted into Florida’s Artists Hall of Fame.
A native of Philadelphia, Taylor Hardwick studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and came to
Jacksonville in 1952 to start his practice. His mentor was Eero Saarinen, one of the masters of American 20th century architecture, and, like Saarinen, Hardwick explored the expressive possibilities of concrete construction, demonstrating technical mastery of its organic possibilities. His work is highly imaginative, playful, colorful, entertaining, and consciously futuristic. He was also an artist, an inventor, a furniture designer, photographer, and filmmaker. Two of his most iconic creations are the Haydon Burns Library and Friendship Park and Fountain.
William Morgan was born in Jacksonville and returned home to start his practice in 1961, after studying at Harvard under Walter Gropius and working in the office of the renowned modernist, Paul Rudolph. He was appointed a Lehman Fellow of Harvard University and studied as a Fulbright grantee in Italy. Appointed Gibbons Eminent Scholar in Architecture and Urban Planning in 1990, he also served as the Distinguished Chair in Architectural Preservation at the University of Florida. His work explores spatial
complexity and the interplay between geometric forms. Using structure derived from nature and ancient cultures, his work is well integrated into its natural surroundings and is respectful of the Earth. His inspired vision has created durable and livable structures, not only locally, but throughout the world. He authored numerous books on both modern and primitive architecture. In the course of his career, Morgan received more than one-hundred architectural awards, having built more than two-hundred sites.