ArchDaily | Broadcasting Architecture Worldwidethe world's most visited architecture website
i

Sign up now and start saving and organizing your favorite architecture projects and photos

i

Find the most inspiring products for your projects in our Product Catalog.

i

Get the ArchDaily Chrome Extension and be inspired with every new tab. Install here »

All
Projects
Products
Events
Competitions
  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Offices
  4. United States
  5. Frank Lloyd Wright
  6. 1939
  7. AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright
AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright, © Jeff Dean
© Jeff Dean

© Rafael A Garcia © Rafael A Garcia © Flickr – User: catasterist © Rafael A Garcia +10

From the architect. Located in Racine, Wisconsin, the SC Johnson and Son Administration Building is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most important statements about the nature of office buildings. H.F. Johnson Jr. commissioned Wright to design a worldwide headquarters administration building for the family company and in 1936 Wright’s drawings were approved and the building officially opened in April of 1939.

© Rafael A Garcia
© Rafael A Garcia

Often referred to as the Johnson Wax Building, its most identifiable element are the dendriform columns, the name used by Wright because of their tree like shape. Wright’s ability to effortlessly incorporate the organic metaphor into his architecture is revealed in the building via a tall slender mushroom column that tapers to a base of a mere 9-inch diameter. 

They rise 30 feet and terminate at the roof level as broad circular lily pads of concrete 18 1/2 feet wide. Wright’s imagination led to creating these hollow cored columns that serve as storm water drains and which feature hinged bases with pin jointed bronze shoes.

© Rafael A Garcia
© Rafael A Garcia

The circular lily pads of concrete are woven together by a membrane of Pyrex glass tubing that illuminate spaces with natural light. The use of Pyrex glass tubing allowed for a lot of diffused light to enter the interior of the Johnson Wax Building. The large workspace is well lit with indirect light and very little glare, resulting in a work environment conducive for creativity.

© Rafael A Garcia
© Rafael A Garcia

The exterior walls are non-load bearing and were constructed using red brick. Other materials used in the construction of the Johnson Wax Building included red Kasota sandstone and reinforced concrete with cold drawn mesh used for the reinforcement. He also designed over 200 different shapes of bricks that can be found in the building. The earthy colors he used including his signature Cherokee Red color were typical of Wright’s work at the time.

© Rafael A Garcia
© Rafael A Garcia

The mushroom columns and glass tubing ceiling formed a large workspace, nearly one half acre in size. The Great Room, as it is referred to, is furnished with specific Wright designed pieces, two circular elevators, and a mezzanine. 

© Flickr – User: catasterist
© Flickr – User: catasterist

He truly provided a complete design for this building thoughtfully creating over 40 pieces of furniture. The elevators took on a birdcage like appearance providing a panoramic view of the Great Room traveling from the basement to the Penthouse level.

© Flickr – User: catasterist
© Flickr – User: catasterist

The building is a bit like being in a forest. A low ceiling carport featuring shortened mushroom columns leads to the lobby. When you reach the Great Room the sky opens and you are surrounded by slender mushroom columns and light streams in from overhead.

There was quite a lot of discussion surrounding Wright’s design of the building, specifically relating to the mushroom columns. The columns were expected by most to fail at providing the appropriate amount of strength to support the roof. 

© Flickr – User: catasterist
© Flickr – User: catasterist

In anticipation of this Wright had a test column constructed of which proved that the design could support over five times anything they would be asked to carry.

Wright provided almost utopian workspace, self-sufficient and a bit futuristic. The modern streamlined atmosphere was communicated through a consistent circular language; curved corner profiles, rounded shapes in furniture pieces, and use of Pyrex glass tubing extending beyond roofing materials for wall dividers and replacing conventional windows.

© Flickr – User: catasterist
© Flickr – User: catasterist

Frank Lloyd Wright was quoted in the Racine Times describing the SC Johnson Administration building as “simply and sincerely an interpretation of modern business conditions designed to be as inspiring to live in and work in as any cathedral ever was to worship in.”

© Rafael A Garcia
© Rafael A Garcia
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Kelly Minner. "AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright" 21 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/90519/ad-classics-s-c-johnson-and-son-administration-building-frank-lloyd-wright/>
Read comments

32 Comments

Anas Khan · October 02, 2013

Does anyone know of any buildings that were directly influenced by the Johnson Wax building ?

arquiteto geek · April 21, 2012

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://t.co/pI8QOhO1 via @archdaily

Matt Cole · March 03, 2011

FLW&#39s S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building: http://tinyurl.com/4c2tesr

willie worthen · December 29, 2010

Hi.
i got a check from the company a refund for a product ref# 014858236A and i didnt get the check cash in time 180 days from the date i was working in the gulf coast oil spill at the time and i need a number to call and talk with some one on how to cash it. Thank you willie worthen

PanamArq · November 23, 2010

ArchDaily, these AD classics would be so much better with some drawings, and not just photos. I bet the majority of your readers are architects.....and we are nerds who love drawings!

Francisco Ibañez · November 23, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright | ArchDaily http://t.co/nvXSPKE via @archdaily

Aleisa Mondolfi · November 23, 2010

SC Johnson and Son de Frank Lloyd Wright. Un edificio impresionante, casi un platillo volador para su epoca http://bit.ly/b1e2GD

Mark Gardner · November 23, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright | ArchDaily http://t.co/fHBh4gR via @archdaily

ilaria defilippo · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright • http://t.co/1znkmVr #architecture #FLWright

Travel Writer · November 22, 2010

RT| AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocate... http://bit.ly/a28zOG @archdaily

Red Wolf · November 22, 2010

SC Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://goo.gl/6ZN7P #architecture

Scott @ Cube Studio · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank ...: Located in Racine, Wi... http://bit.ly/biGWSq www.cubestudio.info

Mah · November 22, 2010

? ??? ?? ???? ????????

And where plan of floors?? :(

Robb · November 22, 2010 05:26 PM

Today, it's so "passe" to post the technical plans and sections - all thx to Zaha Hadid "fancy render only school of architecture".

Gill+Dudwadkar Arch. · November 22, 2010

Beautiful.. RT @BreakingArch - AD Classics: S.C. Johnson & Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright | ArchDaily http://t.co/NWB5CBE

javedani · November 22, 2010

the structure of the building is really emazing.shape of hollow columns is one of the most inovative structural forms until now.
also,the idea of insulating the inside from out side and the influence of the fluid-design cars of that era on the shape of the building is remarkable.

but i dont like the term that wright said about the concept of the building.worship and business...really capitalistic...

again,the building is really a masterpiece.

spectives#design · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: Located in Racine, Wisconsin, th... http://bit.ly/biGWSq

Barry Maguire · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright via ArchDaily - © Jeff ... http://tinyurl.com/23vzsfs

Engy · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright via ArchDaily - © Jeff ... http://tinyurl.com/29m7ouv

ArchitecturePassion · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocated in Raci... http://tinyurl.com/28z2btn

Erik Joya · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff Dean… http://goo.gl/fb/6xKQl

spectives#design · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: Located in Racine, Wisconsin, th... http://bit.ly/dqQSzf

Jenny Roets · November 22, 2010

RT @EBArchDesign: RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://archdai.ly/9c76Hd

GR2TF · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocated in Racine, Wi... http://bit.ly/bLrPUl

arch_related · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocated in Racine, Wi... http://bit.ly/bLrPUl

Netnapis Supongkorn · November 22, 2010
Vincent Beneche · November 22, 2010

RT @archdaily: AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://archdai.ly/9c76Hd #architecture

Jon Randall Spradley · November 22, 2010

RT @EBArchDesign: RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://archdai.ly/9c76Hd

Peter Newton · November 22, 2010

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://archdai.ly/9c76Hd #architecture

Genie · November 22, 2010

RT @ArchDaily: AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright http://archdai.ly/9c76Hd #architecture

DEZIGN · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocated in Racine, Wi... http://bit.ly/bLrPUl

Bocetos Digitales · November 22, 2010

AD Classics: S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building / Frank Lloyd Wright: © Jeff DeanLocated in Racine, Wi... http://bit.ly/bnyWsi

ASphere · November 22, 2010

one of the best innovative structure that inspires all the time

···

Comments are closed

Read comments