William Morgan in Florida: Tropical brutalism in the age of consensus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Godfrey Hodgson argued in his book America in Our Time (1976) that throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s the vast majority of citizens and politicians shared a historically rare moment of consensus. Driven by the cold war and the baby boom, this consensus prompted the implementation of an ambitious program of institutional and educational buildings that embraced almost unanimously the brutalist language to represent the values of the democratic welfare state. Paul Rudolph's late architecture in Florida was unique in introducing raw concrete and acknowledging the climatic context, but it is Jacksonville's architect William Morgan who enriched this regional brutalism by supplementing additional discourses and spatial techniques. The synthesis of his multilateral experience and research of earth architecture and pre-Columbian architecture enabled his unique mode of practice as an embodiment of environmental and ecological, as well as cultural and ideological, principles. His Police Memorial Building in Jacksonville (1971-75) and the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale (1976-79) were late but important examples of how brutalism was used to display the openness of the government. Both buildings have fluid limits with the streets as they employ stepped terraces to increase public interaction and natural ventilation. The traditional concept of façade disappears, and is replaced by silhouette, shadows, and depth of the voids. The Police building is still in use, but the roof gardens have been destroyed since the 1980s. The Federal courthouse will eventually be replaced by a new structure on a site to be determined, as the judges have argued that the current building has become impractical and that its openness does not match current security requirements. The Florida chapter of docomomo US is currently assembling the documentation to launch a competition and preservation campaign of the courthouse. The presentation in Lisbon is seen as critical to establish a valid strategy for its preservation and reuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International Docomomo Conference - Adaptive Reuse
Subtitle of host publicationThe Modern Movement Towards the Future
EditorsAna Tostoes, Zara Ferreira
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9789899964501
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Event14th International Docomomo Conference - Adaptive Reuse: The Modern Movement Towards the Future - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: Sep 6 2016Sep 9 2016


Other14th International Docomomo Conference - Adaptive Reuse: The Modern Movement Towards the Future

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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