Friday, June 29, 2012



June 22, 2012. "Orb." Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, Orlando, Florida.

It always surprises me when discussions of "great" Florida architecture fail to include the Winnie Palmer Hospital, instead cataloging out a list of inferior, uninspired, sentimental inclusions because tourists may know their names.

Then there's relatively unrecognized Winnie Palmer Hospital. The fact is, when you go to a hospital, you're stressed. The Winnie Palmer building centers around the patient and the anxious family in a very literal, circular way, making them feel protected and drawn together. Patient rooms in the towers feed out like spokes on a wheel and feel more like nice hotel rooms than institutional cubes for an endless night of beeping and needle sticking.

The orb in the front is a huge waiting room, bringing in showers of tranquil natural light and eliminating that "trapped" feeling that sets in after an hour or ten.

When visiting photographers express a desire to take unusual photos of the Orlando not seen, I always include Winnie Palmer building. A few weeks later, I enjoy seeing their overly processed pictures of Disney as if they were uniquely blessed that year among Orlando's 51 million annual tourists to catch that prefabricated moment in the Magic Kingdom. Orlando area photographers tend to feed into the perception that there's nothing worth shooting in Orlando outside the theme parks, and it is a shame.

Years ago, guidebook author and PBS nerd extraordinaire Rick Steeves was asked, "What is the one place that you would never go back to?" His answer, "I was recently in Orlando and couldn’t stop thinking how miserable I’d be if I had to write a guidebook chapter on that city."

Rick Steeves writes the best tour books on European cities for budget travelers. His books are about exploring the non-touristy side of cities while still taking in the popular sites, and I wouldn't get on a plane crossing the Atlantic without his current version.

Mr. Steeves, like most Orlando tourists and convention delegates, forgets this as soon as tires touch down at Orlando International Airport.

Every place has its beauty. Go find it where you live, in your own backyard.

Leica X1. 24.0 mm. 1/30. f/2.8. ISO 1600. LR 2.

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