Any fan of Frank Lloyd Wright or modern architecture is sure to appreciate a tour of the S.C. Johnson corporate headquarters. The administrative building was finished in 1939 and famous for its dendriform pillars which are smaller on the bottom than on the top. To get a permit, Wright had to prove that these tree-like (“dendri” means tree like, but most trees are either bigger or the same size at the bottom as the top of the trunk from what I can tell) columns.
He showed that the pillars could support far more than the required 12 tons. They held 60 tons before they started to crack.
The cream and Cherokee red building was known for its curves, its glass tube sky lights and office walls and Wright’s furniture including a three legged chair that was supposed to encourage good posture, but often resulted in the occupant’s tumbling.
“Wright decided the Administration Center to be a functional building. He studied the daily work flow and believed that the most important criteria for his designs were the people. Wright also considered the corporate hierarchy. The clerical staff had office areas on the main level, the manager’s offices were on the mezzanine level surrounding the clerical staff, and the executive offices on the third or Penthouse level, over-seeing everyone below.” Source: Racine County.
In addition to the Administration building and research tower, the campus has a stunning new building called Fortaleza Hall designed by Foster + Partners.
Fortaleza is the name of the area where the key ingredient for Johnson wax is found in Brazil. The building was finished in 2009 and symbolizes the spirit of adventure and the life and work of the third and fourth CEO’s who traveled to Brazil to ensure the company could continue to procure the special wax they used. Not only does the airplane hanging from the ceiling impress, inside there’s a vertical garden with 79 species of South American plants that wowed me.
SC Johnson offers free tours of their buildings on Fridays and Saturdays. Book ahead especially in the summer. Tours vary in time from 1 to 2 to 3 and a half hours in duration.
- S.C. Johnson to erect 2 wind turbines in Racine County (jsonline.com)
- Reserve a space on a tour
- Inspiring Green Choices & Boosting Recycling Rates at SC Johnson (linkingsustainability.com)
- SC Johnson Launches Initiatives to Change Recycling Behavior (environmentalleader.com)