In 1936, third generation SC Johnson leader H.F. Johnson, Jr. sought
out the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Designs were in development for
the company’s new Administration Building, but H.F. wanted a new, more
modern approach, even though ground had already been broken and
construction was set to start. He later explained, “Anybody can build a typical building. I
wanted to build the best office building in the world, and the only way
to do that was to get the greatest architect in the world.”
Thus began a relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and SC
Johnson that continues to this day. The remarkable Administration
Building opened in 1939, followed by the Research Tower in 1950. Today,
both are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The SC Johnson Administration Building is celebrated as one
of the top 25 buildings of the 20th century. From its 43 miles of Pyrex
glass tubing to the dendriform columns soaring in the Great Workroom, it
is truly a unique work of art that reflects that innovation and
adventure that are still the spirit of SC Johnson today.
the building's special features are the Great Workroom's more than
one-half acre of open workspace and the "bird cage" circular elevators
that run from the basement to the Penthouse level, giving a panoramic
view of the building. The glass tubing "windows" of the building were
designed by Wright to refract light and cut glare. If laid end to end,
the original Pyrex tubes would have extended more than 43 miles.
Perhaps the most recognized feature of the Great Workroom is its
columns. Wright called them "dendriform," meaning tree-shaped, but many
also refer to them as lily pads because of the unique shape of their top
supporting pads. The column tops are 18 1/2 feet in diameter and the
bases are only 9 inches in diameter.
Wright designed more than 40 different pieces of furniture for
the Administration Building, each created to reflect aspects of the
building's overall design. The primary color used throughout the
building is an earthy maroon-orange tint, which Wright called "Cherokee Red."
Research Tower, added to the campus in 1950, is one of the tallest
structures ever built on the cantilever principle. It stands 153 feet
tall and its central core, which is 13 feet in diameter, extends 54 feet
into the ground. All 14 floors of the Research Tower are supported by
the core, much like a tree supports its branches.