A Jacksonville treasure gets new life for a new era

The historic building that now houses the Jessie Ball duPont Center is a notable structure in Florida architecture. It is included in the Florida's AIA's 100 Years 100 Places roster, and the AIA notes: "[The structure] is an outstanding example of a uniquely designed building of the Modern era that successfully integrated art and technology in order to address very specific needs and site parameters."

In fact, architect Taylor Hardwick faced a number of challenges in designing the building, according to Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design. The site rises eight feet from south (Forsyth Street) to north (Adams Street). The structure needed to diffuse sunlight and glare and sustain winds up to 150 mph. And it needed accommodate the extraordinary weight of hundreds of thousands of books.

To accommodate the slope, Hardwick designed gardens and tree wells on the south facade and created space for a below-ground level.

The building's iconic cast concrete fins, 19 feet long, "provide breeze turbulence for reducing thermal transmission and to create shadow patterns." They contain particles of mica to help shed dirt and grime. On the south wall, a bronze sunscreen fits between the fins, proving shade without limiting light or ventilation. (Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design.)

Despite its extremely substantial construction, seen from a distance, the building appears to be a finned box, floating above the foundation.

Read more about Mid-Century Modern Architecture »