Frank Lloyd Wright's SC Johnson Research Tower by Mark Hertzberg
Frank Lloyd Wright�s SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, is one of modern architecture�s most significant landmarks. Completed in 1950, the fifteen-story skyscraper is the only existing example of Wright�s ambitious taproot design. Like limbs from a tree trunk, alternating square floors and round mezzanines branch out from the weight-bearing central core�a truly revolutionary idea at the time and an engineering marvel today.
In 1943 H. F. Johnson Jr., president of the SC Johnson & Son Company, commissioned Wright (1867�1959) to create a new laboratory space that would be as innovative as the research and development team working inside it. The architect eagerly accepted the challenge, envisioning a vertical complement to the firm�s streamlined Administration Building, designed by Wright seven years prior. The result was a new kind of skyscraper, one with double-height spaces, windows made of Pyrex glass tubing, and stripes of Wright�s signature Cherokee red brick, all balanced on a small pedestal base�the Tower�s sinewy core. Although the Tower opened to great acclaim in 1950, it closed just thirty-one years later. Despite its ingenious structure, the building ultimately proved to be an impractical model of urban-industrial architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright�s SC Johnson Research Tower investigates the rise and fall of this remarkable building. Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, provides an insightful Foreword, while Mark Hertzberg�s text explores the design, the construction, and�through interviews with Johnson employees�the experience of working within Wright�s iconic Tower. A photo essay titled �The Tower Rises� chronicles the construction with historical photographs, and Hertzberg�s artful photographs document the Tower�inside and out�as it appears today.