All is Flux

The Nautilus Foundation: Medieval Castle in the Woods

(page 4 of 4)


 Fiona Hollier sits inside the unfinished Quadrivium building, in the large auditorium Bucher envisioned would host architectural seminars. 



A desperate man entering the last year of his life, Bucher asked the Board of Trustees to approve a donation to the foundation run by Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. That, too, fell through.  Finally, with assistance from FSU, the Collins Center for Public Policy brokered a deal with Bucher. On April 9, 1998, Bucher wrote to the Nautilus Foundation’s board of trustees asking them to sanction the transfer. “I have decided to donate my personal holdings of land, art, books, and cash to the Collins Center,” Bucher wrote, “based on its proposal to operate an Institute for Advanced Study in Lloyd.”  

In November 1999, Bucher died at home. The Collins Center handled his burial on the property, first in an aboveground sarcophagus according to his wishes, and later in a raised gravesite.  The Collins Center made many repairs to the Trivium over the following years.  They removed many of the small, oddly sized windows, applied stucco to the outer walls, and installed a fountain in the pond that Bucher himself had dug and stocked with fish. 

In 2001, the organization known as the Collins Center for Public Policy split into the LeRoy Collins Institute, based at FSU, and the LeRoy Collins Center for Public Policy, based in Miami. The latter organization, which owned and maintained the former Nautilus Foundation property, tucked an article into one of its 2003 newsletters titled “Lloyd Creek Retreat Open for Business” that offered the Trivium up as a rental space for businesses and associations to use for meetings. Later on, the space would function as a call center, but mostly it went unused. By the time the property went up for sale in 2011 with an asking price of $620,000, its owners were in real financial trouble. Most of the land had already been sold.  Bucher’s art and collectibles were slated for a separate sale.  The buildings and all they contained had to go, too.  The Holliers purchased the property for a fraction of its original value.  

In Claudia Bucher’s assessment, her father allowed misplaced ideas about his legacy to consume him.  “He was like a man going down with his ship, and there was no way to stop it,” she says.  “I believe his impulses were admirable, but he was just too flawed in the end to find the right people to help him realize his vision.”

Civilization Is a Theory

“He was trying to incarnate the golden ratio in a form, like the pyramids and the Parthenon,” architect and fashion designer Deborah Desilets tells me in her living room, as we read through years’ worth of correspondence from Bucher that Desilets has saved. “Architecture is not about bricks and stones, it’s about the spirit,” she responds to my question about the success of her friend Bucher’s projects. “François used to say, civilization is a theory.”

Fiona Hollier plans to install a roof garden on the Trivium.  She envisions a repaired Quadrivium as a bed and breakfast and an event center as well as a place to host artists as they pursue creative works. While the Holliers have made the Lloyd property their home, the spirit of what Bucher wanted to build is also present. On one visit, as Fiona and I walk past the apple, pomegranate, and fig trees she has planted, she tells me that it seems that “time disappears” while on the property. Bucher designed the Nautilus Foundation to provide precisely that effect for its visiting researchers.  

I find it hard to miss the unfinished Quadrivium casting its long shadow. But the Trivium’s repairs are as brightly obvious; the building is in better shape now than it was in Bucher’s day, and still filled with many of Bucher’s books. Behind the scenes at Strozier, the respectful work of cataloguing his correspondence and creative work continues.  

A scholar of medieval art, Bucher viewed civilization using a scope of 500 rather than five or 50 years.

“There is of course no way to predict the vagaries or tempests of human history, and to assess which institutions will succeed better than others in the long run,” he wrote during the period when his idea for the Nautilus Foundation was fresh. “There can be no doubt that there was and is very little luck involved in the planning of seminal, past and present islands of creative thought ... . If they succeed and continue to inspire, and none may, they will deserve our respect and support for their attempt to surmount impossible odds.” 

Select Nautilus Foundation visitors and exhibits:

  • Paul Sharits
  • Jean Krille
  • Paolo Soleri
  • John James
  • R. Buckminster Fuller
  • Spaceship Earth
  • World Future Society
  • Hafis Bertschinger 
  • Williams S. Burroughs
  • Sinclair Beiles
  • Justus Dahinden
  • Georgi Stoilov
  • Jean Marie Bottequin
  • Katherine Peikert
  • Jack Dann
  • Hank Virgona
  • FSU Dance Repertory Theatre
  • Cornelia Hesse
  • Morris Lapidus
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