The Chicago Architecture Biennial is here! It’s here, and it’s awesome. I’ve been enjoying many parts of the biennial, I did a Studio Visit at Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill, I’ve been to a number of lectures and I’ve pored over much of what is in installation at The Cultural Center.
But the MOST FUN thing so far, has been the trip to Racine, WI to go see the SC Johnson Headquarters done by a Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. The trip is being offered in conjunction with the Biennial and SC Johnson and it’s FREE. The whole trip, up there and back and the tour guides (who were GREAT) and the bus and everything. FREE. What a treat.
I met my group on a Friday morning at 10AM at the Cultural Center. The SC Johnson bus was clean, big and warm, just like I like my buses! Our tour guide Val, greeted the 30 of us, introduced our bus driver Devon, and off we went, right on time. On the ride up Val filled us in what we were going to see and gave us some cool facts, like that SC Johnson is still a private company and that they paid the money to do these free tours to their headquarters. That’s pretty neat, rock on SCJ.
90 minutes later we pulled into O&H Danish Bakery in Racine. As we got closer, Val really talked up the Kringle. Now, I’ve never had Kringle and I must admit, had never really heard of Kringle, but I love me some pastries and baked goods! You could also purchase a sandwich at O&H, 4 different kinds and they looked delicious. I brought my own lunch and that was fine too.
After purchasing a Cinnamon Bun Kringle (raspberry, pFFFT!) we were back on the bus to go to the headquarters.
*I could only take photographs from the outside. So some of these are mine and the ones that aren’t I captioned.*
You know, Frank Lloyd Wright is not one of my favorites. He just, I get it, I really do, trust me – but he never tickled my romantic side like Sullivan or Burnham. He’s like Mies to me, I get it, I see it and appreciate it and can talk to it, but there’s no fire there.
And there still isn’t really, but HOLY HELL is the campus really neat. We started at the Research Tower (photo above) finished in 1950. The Tower rises above flat Racine and the rest of the headquarters and it totally looks like Superman to me. FLW designed the Administration Building for SC Johnson, but they looked to another architect to build the tower. Wright wasn’t too happy with those designs, so he did his own saying “every building is a great opportunity to do the right thing in every direction.” FLW told Johnson he could do it for 900K and 4 million dollars later it was finished. It’s basically square floors with rounded mezzanines. THE COOLEST PART of the Research Tower however, is in the facade, the glass you see in the photo above? It’s TUBES. 7,000 Pyrex tubes! It is unreal. And it is filled with light, so light sometimes the employees had to wear sunglasses.
Our last stop was Fortaleza Hall – this rocked my world – designed by Norman Foster (2010); oh my gosh, is it PRETTY. It holds the plane that one of the Johnson boys used to follow in his father’s footsteps. It also holds a cafeteria and other employee amenities. It is just gorgeous and it totally follows the lines and curves of FLW while “making it his own.” I’m sure Sir Norman Foster would love that I put it that way:
The outside, RAWR:
At about 2:30 we hopped back on the bus and made it back to Chicago by 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. SO GOOD. I’m so thankful to the Biennial and to SC Johnson (and FLW!) for making this a possibility for us. What a treat, what an amazing morning and afternoon and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of any of this at all.
If you’re interested, there’s still lots of time to go! Just click here.