Florida Tour of William Morgan's Police Administration Building


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By Glenda Puente, President Docomomo US/Florida

Docomomo US/Florida members and guests took a tour of William Morgan’s Police Administration Building (1971-75) in Jacksonville on February 6, 2016. The tour was led by Gary R. Dickinson, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Staff, and included the interior of the building as well as the roof terrace.

Photo Credit: Andrea Puente

The Police Building is an example of Brutalism used to display the openness of the government in an era of democratic welfare. The design was the result of a competition held in 1971 for a rectangular 210’ x 700’ site and included a system of low, terrace-like, horizontal masses without windows but with skylights. The structure consisted of a grid of 27-foot concrete “trees” utilizing cruciform-shaped columns from which beams cantilever to support floor and roof slabs. Two three-story atriums, connected together by a large two-story high interior street, provided generous interior plazas and gave to the structure a strong urban character.

The building is made entirely in poured-in-place and prefabricated concrete, it has fluid limits with the street and employs stepped terraces to increase public interaction and natural ventilation, thus eliminating the traditional concept of a façade. The building was an early pioneer of the now-popular “green roof.” As designed, various roof terraces provided a relaxing riverfront park which was equipped with seating and fountains. In the early 1980s, a ten-story and intimidating jail structure was built on one of its sides, with its mass looming menacingly over the green roofs, destroying the outdoor experience that Morgan designed. As time passed, increased security concerns and maintenance problems arose, leading to restricted access and dismantling of the park-related features.

William Morgan Smathers Library. Credit: Univeristy of Florida Archives

William Morgan Smathers Library. Credit: Univeristy of Florida Archives

William Morgan (1930-2016) was a Jacksonville-based architect and author. He studied in Harvard under Walter Gropius and José Luis Sert and worked in the Cambridge office of Paul Rudolph. He was also a Fulbright scholar in Italy and lived in Rome in 1958-59 where he studied advance techniques of concrete construction under the guidance of Pier Luigi Nervi. Back in Florida, he opened his office in Jacksonville in 1961. A couple of years later he started his research on pre-Columbian and earth architecture with a Wheelwright Fellowship from Harvard University, and later with grants from the Graham Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He designed and built over 150 buildings including private houses, apartment and office buildings, university structures, and public institutions.

William Morgan Smathers Library. Credit: Univeristy of Florida Archives

The Police Administration Building tour is part of Docomomo US/Florida’s recent efforts to highlight William Morgan’s legacy. Otherefforts include the first of the Docomomo US/Florida Member Lecture Series, in December 2015, which focused on the Fort Lauderdale Federal Courthouse, and the announcement of a design competition to repurpose the same building. Later this year, Docomomo Florida founding member and current board member, Jean-François Lejeune, will present a paper in the Docomomo International Conference in Portugal titled “William Morgan in Florida: Tropical Brutalism in the Age of Consensus”.

"William Morgan in Florida: Tropical Brutalism in the Age of Consensus" by Jean-François Lejeune