Fireworks, purple sails, politicians and educators all were headliners at Saturday’s launch of Florida’s 12th university — Florida Polytechnic — located in north Polk County.
Amon those attending the ‘Launch’ were Gov. Rick Scott, Commissioner of Agriculture (and Bartow’s favorite son) Adam Putnam, State Rep. Seth McKeel, former state legislator and Florida Poly founding father, JD Alexander, architect Santiago Calatrava, who designed the signature Innovation Science and Technology Center, which is the university’s iconic signature building and FPU president Randy K. Avent.
The central focus in Saturday’s gala event was the IST Center, the stark white futuristic building that is visible from Interstate 4. The building currently stands virtually alone on the 200-acre site, just off the Polk Parkway near I-4.
The building is a move-able and functional work of art, officials said. The 162,000-square-foot building features a louvered roof system that adjusts with the sun’s angle. It is surrounded by a ring of curved pergolas that shade the outer terrace and walkways; a pergola is a garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice. The building is also set beside a series of lakes and crisscrossed by promenades that will lead to future buildings and student housing.
Thousands of visitors from across the county crowded the building after the official opening ceremonies to tour the classrooms, offices and theaters that comprise the interior of the building.
“What’s truly remarkable about Florida Polytechnic is that every single component of it, from this cutting edge building, has been designed around its mission — to prepare students to become innovative problem solvers and high tech professionals,” said Avent.
“Florida Poly’s strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and its dedication to helping students graduate with the skills they will need to get a great job will play a key role in creating jobs for the next generation in Florida,” said Scott, who left almost immediately after making his remarks to the crowd that numbered about 1,000, according to university estimates.
“I am honored to have been involved in this project dedicated to the study of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Calatrava. “That set of subjects is so crucial to our society and our economy. I am proud of what we have all achieved and I hope the young people that study here will be inspired to be creative and meet their potential.”
He added that “working with the visionary university leadership and amongst the enthusiastic community has been a privilege and I wish everyone associated with this project the best of luck in the coming years. I hope the students coming here will find the home of their mother — their alma mater.”
“This is a gift to the world,” Putnam said. “It will become a magnet for talent from around the globe.”
Construction of the IST center took 28 months to build at a cost of approximately $60 million.
“It was built on ‘Poly time,’” said FPU Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker, who emceed the launch ceremonies. “We fast-tracked absolutely everything so we can be ready for students on the 25th. And, we’ve given them a campus they can be proud of.”
“The team has literally built a university from scratch, and today is a culmination of those efforts,” said former University Trustees Board President Rob Gidel, of Orlando. “I can’t wait to see our students and our state reap the benefits of these feats.”