The marriage of the earth and sky and of the building and the ground come to life at Wichita State’s Corbin Education Center.
The College of Education hosted tours of the building — which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957-58 — on Friday to celebrate the 150th birthday of “the greatest American architect of all time.”
The building is considered one of his most daring designs, but was not constructed until 1963, four years after Wright’s death.
“We have visitors come from all over the world to see this building,” said Patrice Hein, assistant to the College of Education dean.
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The tour started in the grass on the west side of the building, to give visitors time to consider the architecture before entering the building, she said.
People usually first notice the meeting of horizontal and vertical lines. It’s part of Wright’s form, but it doesn’t marry too well to function, Hein said, as it leads to unused space of “nooks and crannies” throughout the inside of the building.
Wright wanted people to see the building married to the ground the same way the earth is married to the sky.
He did this through designing two 60-foot-tall light needles that join the land and sky and by bringing the indoors and outdoors together.
“He brings you almost inside,” Hein said as she brought the tour group into a low-ceilinged outdoor shelter, “just before you are brought back outside to step toward the fountain.”
The building has over 25,000 square feet of enclosed space, 14,000 feet of covered outdoor space and 22,000 feet of uncovered terraces and balconies.
A water feature is placed in the center of an esplanade, which divides the structure into two buildings that cost $1 million to construct.
“He did not want you to walk into this center and know exactly where you needed to go to enter the building,” Hein said. “He wanted you to explore.”
As you explore the building, you’ll see the shape of diamonds and half circles as a common design feature, including in the trim of the building and as the handles for the doors. They were meant to represent the theme of marriage.
“But you’ll notice the two half circles don’t quite meet,” Hein said. “He was conflicted about marriage.”
Wright was married three times and was often seen with other women.
But his last wife, Olgivanna Wright, was alive for the construction of the center and present at the dedication of the building in 1964. She chose the colors, which is why the building doesn’t quite match the university’s black and yellow color scheme.
“She is the reason for the turquoise and terra cotta color,” Hein said. “We preserve those colors. And it has a subliminal effect on you. I don’t know how many days we all come in wearing turquoise and terra cotta.”
The building is open to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for self-guided tours.