In what’s called the Great Workroom in the Administration Building of the household-products maker SC Johnson, 1930s streamlined desks line up loosely amid rows of delicate columns. The columns gently thicken as they rise to form spreading lily-pad capitals that appear to support only daylight. This 22,000-square-foot office floor feels like it’s set in a sun-dappled forest.
The building, in Racine, Wis., adapts graciously to our open-office era, even though it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as he turned 70 in the midst of the Great Depression.
It’s risky to call any office building a masterwork. Even the most insightful architecture can prove too inflexible in the face of changing business models, advancing technologies and the volatile fate of companies themselves.
Yet Wright’s design for H.F. Johnson Jr., the third-generation leader of what was then called S.C. Johnson & Son, endures both because of the innate intelligence of its design and the pride the family-owned company takes in it.