NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wright in Racine

I've lived here in Wisconsin within an hour drive of SC Johnson's headquarters in Racine for the last 25 years and never made my way over to check out their renowned buildings.  Yesterday Katrina was looking for something to do so I suggested we go give them a look.

The Research Tower with the Administration Building behind it -
Fortaleza Hall's lovely curving wall on the left

The Golden Rondelle Theater where we met up with the tour is another relic from another world's fair.  Not the famous one in Chicago, but the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

H.F. Johnson Jr. wanted to do something a little different from the standard fair display and had the 18 minute film To Be Alive! made to show at the fair.  The film was about peace and the joy of being alive, a stark contrast to the turbulent and violent times of those years.

After the fair it was dismantled and brought back to Racine where it still shows films to the company and the public today.  But the big architectural show on the grounds of SC Johnson is the Administration Building which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936 and finished in 1939.

View of some of the buildings from the parking garage

Photography is not allowed in the buildings, which is a pity because the photos on the company's website are uninspired and do nothing to prepare you for the innovative space.  However, I did find this link which provides some great shots as well as some great information similar to what we got on the tour.  The tour is free, and we just showed up without reservations and tagged along.

Dendriform (tree shaped) columns in garage as well as in the building

The tour moves quickly but the guide gave great information about the architecture interspersed with lively stories about the architect's failures and successes regarding the design.  I won't spoil it by recounting any of them here, you'll have to go hear them for yourself.  The tour also now includes the Research Tower built in the 1950's and a collection of furniture, sketches and other items from Frank Lloyd Wright's personal homes, Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin (another place I haven't visited yet) and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"Carnauba" on display in Fortaleza Hall - picture taken from outside

One of my favorite highlights of the tour though was the reflecting pool and vertical garden in Fortaleza Hall which was designed by architect Norman Foster in 2010 but I couldn't find any pictures online that even came close to doing it justice.  Of course at the end of the tour we asked one of the guides where they would go for lunch and she suggested the Reefpoint Brew House.

I was goofing around with the settings on a new point-and-shoot waterproof camera I ordered and one of the waiters walking by helped me out by striking a pose.  Michael made our afternoon complete by filling it with fun and laughter.  Their BBQ sauce assortment didn't disappoint either.

I'm pretty happy with the pictures I got with the Nikon AW120 camera, both inside and outside. None of the pictures in this post were edited AT ALL and I think they turned out nicely for a gray winter day in Wisconsin. I also purchased Canon's similar model, I'll be giving that one a test run today.  I'll write up more details later comparing the two for anyone who might be in the market for one themselves.

View of Lake Michigan from the Reefpoint Brew House -  Brrrrrr!

Lots of ice fishing going on here in Wisconsin, we even got to see the fishermen at the Reefpoint Marina giving the Lake Michigan fish a try.  The weather was actually above freezing, which was a welcome change even without sun and even though the wind still whistled along.  I put the finishing touches on my trip last night and I'm looking forward to those temperatures in northern South Carolina...which now includes stopping for 3 whole days in Gatlinburg on the way!


  1. I went to that world's fair. I know, you weren't even born yet.

  2. You are hilarious! Not even a thought to either of my parents yet. Thanks for making me feel young! How was the fair?