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FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
S.C. Johnson Wax Administration Building - 1939
1525 Howe St, Racine, Wisconsin

 
Wright apparently tried to persuade Herbert Johnson to relocate the headquarters for S.C. Johnson Wax to a different site because he found the light industrial landscape of Racine distasteful. Johnson stayed with his site and Wright designed an insular building that shut out the surrounding neighborhood.

Instead of creating a building that brings the nature in, Wright built an abstracted nature within the building. The famous fluted columns form tree trunks that seem to grow from the carpeted floor, as dappled light filters through the canopy of hollow pyrex tubes above. The tubes are arranged in an interlocking geometric pattern that enhances the tree forest feeling. A collection of indoor plants hang from planters in the entrance foyer.

Like so many of his designs Wright plays with compression and expansion. The ceiling of the covered driveway which fronts the building is very low, and the entry foyer is quite modest in plan. Upon entering the Great Workroom, however, it is hard to avoid the feeling of entering another world. The natural light, which enters the building through the pyrex tubes in the walls and ceiling, bathes the interior with a warm glow. The fittings and carpets are very plush and give the impression of an old fashioned bank.
It was unfortunate that I was not allowed into the research tower. This building is now abandoned. The research department has outgrown the building, and it cannot be adapted without major alterations because the single entry door does not provide an adequate escape route in case of a fire.

Copyright 2013.        Andrew T Boyne Architect.        A: 69 Stanley St Nedlands 6009 Western Australia        P: 0423601604         E: architect@andrewtboyne.com