One of the most celebrated and inspirational architects who was among those who inspired many young minds to pursue Architecture was Frank Lloyd Wright. This American Architecture was known for pioneering many Architectural styles during his work reign of about 70 years. Frank Lloyd Wright described his work as organic Architecture; his buildings were a wonderful amalgamation of Design, Nature, Art, and Technology. He designed more than 700 built and unbuilt structures in his lifetime and most of them were revolutionary at that time. One of his most iconic works is Johnson Wax Headquarters, Racine, New York, United States.

Johnson Wax Headquarters by F.L. Wright: The building with 'Lily pad' Columns - Sheet1
Exterior Façade ©Archdaily

This building is a pivotal building by Frank Lloyd Wright which justifies his ideologies and philosophy of blending with nature. The building is prominently in two parts, the first section is the administrative building (1936-1939) and the second part being the Research Tower (1944-1950) which was added later after the construction of the administrative building. The campus is collectively called Administration Building and Research Tower, S.C. Johnson & Son, and was designated as National Historic Landmarks in the year 1976 by the American Institute of Architects. The brief given to Frank Lloyd Wright by the president of the company Herbert F. Johnson was to create a space that creates an ideal atmosphere for people working there and have their comfort zone within the building itself. The premise of the building was the location of the site which was an Industrial area. Frank Lloyd Wright attempted with the building to change the stereotypical nature of office buildings. The form, construction technique, use of materials, technology used in the exterior as well as interior produced an exemplary output.

Johnson Wax Headquarters by F.L. Wright: The building with 'Lily pad' Columns - Sheet2
View for Research Tower ©Flickr user End user

The concept of the structure revolves around making space more users friendly, comfortable, and productive to work. Light played an important role in shaping the form of the building. The Uniformness of both natural and artificial lighting was a very important factor of consideration while designing the structure. The use of material and selection of color palette is very cleverly done to suit the location of the site which was a very rustic and barren context. The most highlighted feature of the entire building was the use of space. The typical high-rise structures which were very popular in the 1930s were not considered and a horizontal language of the office building with open planning came into the picture with this building. Some of the important elements of the structure are the hidden entrance which is not very grand compared to the other typical office building; the second element is the Dendriform concrete column designed and tested by Frank Lloyd Wright himself used in the Great workroom on the First floor. The other areas are on the upper mezzanine floors including the Management area, Auditorium, cafeteria, etc. and most floors have a penthouse. The tower which was added later is more of a simpler nature with a simple square plan curved on edges. It is very smartly blended to make the campus homogenous and to be matched with the Administration building by use of material, color, and texture.

Johnson Wax Headquarters by F.L. Wright: The building with 'Lily pad' Columns - Sheet3
Great workroom ©dezeen.com

The use of material and technology played an important role in the construction of the building. The Dendriform (lilypad, mushroom columns) concrete column serves both functional and aesthetic purposes. The ‘Cherokee red’ brick exterior walls have no windows and hence light is captured from above with the help of a pyrex tube. These tubes were used in all the columns and skylights of the building. The inside of the building looks like a forest with natural light and ventilation flooring from above in the free-flowing spaces within the structure. There are 60 Dendriform (lilypad, mushroom columns) in the building with 6.5 meters in height, base 23 cm, and expands to 5.5 m in diameter at the top. Frank Lloyd Wright designed this building entirely in the true sense with very minute details designed, inspected, and executed by him. He not only focused on exterior and interior parts but also designed 40 pieces of furniture. Hence, this is a very iconic building in the career of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Johnson Wax Headquarters by F.L. Wright: The building with 'Lily pad' Columns - Sheet4
Great workroom and the furniture designed by F. L. Wright ©atlasofplaces.com

This building inspired and pioneered the Modernist and Futuristic style of Architecture keeping the roots enacted. Frank Lloyd Wright designed this building way ahead of his time by the influences of his early style of work is also evident in it. The use of spaces, materials, texture, technology, and execution is the reason that it is still the only working office building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Johnson Wax Headquarters is a celebrated piece of Architecture that represents Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.

Srushti Tiwari
Author

Srushti Tiwari is the Principal Architect for Chaukhat Designs, Nagpur. She is also a faculty at Institute of Design Education and Architectural Studies (IDEAS), Nagpur. She is keen about research based works and likes to explore the culture and community. She is also associated with Studio Sakha as an Associate Architect. She believes working with different types of people help you grow and hence is constantly engaged in some or the other collaborative works related or co-related to Architectural Field.

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