SCJ Shapes

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

Circles seemed to be what caught my eye today when I shot a few quick pictures at SC Johnson today while accompanying 35 guests who are on a two-state Road Scholar / Jewish Community Center of Chicago architectural tour. These were taken in public areas where photos are allowed without special permission or arrangements.

SCJ 10.4.17 007.jpgThe Research Tower, upper right, peeks out from above the short columns on the walkway to the Administration Building carport.

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The carport presents a myriad of shapes to play with.

SCJ 10.4.17 014.jpgFinally, there is this picture at the entrance to the Administration Building.

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Wright in Miniature

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017 / Photos by Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson, and used with permission of SC Johnson.

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The sixth iteration of SC Johnson’s annual The SC Johnson Gallery: At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition opens today in Fortaleza Hall on the company’s campus in Racine, Wisconsin. The centerpiece of the exhibition, titled On the Wright Trail, is the display of 26 miniature scale models of Wright’s architecture by retired architectural draftsman Ron Olsen of Janesville, Wisconsin. One of the models is of the gate lodge at Penwern, Wright’s estate for Fred B. Jones on Delavan Lake, Wisconsin (1900-1903):

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The exhibition coincides with both the summer-long observances of Wright’s 150th birthday (June 8) and the inauguration  of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail in Wisconsin. A ceremony marking the launch of the Trail was held May 10 in the Great Workroom of Wright’s landmark SC Johnson Administration Building (1936). Olsen and his wife, Judy, were photographed when they saw the exhibition for the first time after the Trail ceremony. The exhibition includes a video interview with Olsen:

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“SC Johnson is proud of its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture,” said Kelly M. Semrau, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Affairs, Communication and Sustainability, SC Johnson. “In celebration of Wright’s birth in Wisconsin 150 years ago, we are thrilled to offer visitors of On the Wright Trail a unique opportunity to study the architect’s design practice across different areas, media and time.”

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New Wright exhibition at SC Johnson opens

Photos by Mark Hertzberg (c) for SC Johnson

SCJ Wasmuth

Wright’s 1910 Wasmuth Portfolio is the theme of the fourth annual exhibition in the “At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright” gallery in Fortaleza Hall on the SC Johnson campus in Racine, Wis. Fifty lithographs from the portfolio and artifacts from the Dana House and the Heath House, among others, are exhibited:

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SCJ Wasmuth

Weekend tours now also include H.F. Johnson Jr.’s office in the Wright-designed Administration Building (1936). The office has been refurbished with period furniture and company artifacts for the tours. Johnson commissioned Wright to designed the Administration Building, the SC Johnson Research Tower (1943/44), Wingspread (his home, 1937), the unrealized Racine YWCA (1949/50), an unrealized remodeling at the Racine Airport (1941), and several unrealized buildings at Wingspread.

HF Office

HF Office

HF Office

Wright – and others close to Johnson – called him “Hib”.

SCJ Wasmuth

For information and required tour reservations go to: www.scjohnson.com/visit

SCJ Research Tower: Imitation is Flattery

(c) Mark Hertzberg If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery (Charles Caleb Colton, 1820), then Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower has many admirers. The latest incarnation of the Tower is a Lego model built by Chris Eyerly of Kenosha. It is displayed in Fortaleza Hall on the company campus.

Lego Research Tower

The first spin-off of the Tower was a desk lighter commissioned by H.F. Johnson Jr. in 1946, the year before construction began, to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. Famed industrial design Brooks Stevens delighted in “literally knocking the great Wright down to size” when he designed the lighter, according to Glenn Adamson, who profiled Stevens in 2003 for an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Tower Lighter

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It was followed sometime after 1960 by a Christmas candle. While the lighters are collectors’ items today, fetching prices up to $700 on sites like eBay, the candle was not as successful, according to the late Serge Logan, who worked in community relations for the company. People liked the “gorgeous smell,” Logan recalled, “I think we got them in Maine somewhere because of the smell of the pines.” But the company that made the candles did not pack them well enough, and many cracked during shipping.

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There was also a golden charm of the Tower offered for sale to employees in 1971 for $5. It was made by Tiffany & Company. It was packaged in a blue leatherette jewelry case with the Tiffany trademark.

Tower Tiffany Pin

Eyerly, 39, is an IT security engineer who enjoys challenging himself by designing Lego models. He incorporates his admiration of Wright’s work into his hobby. The Tower is his second Wright Lego creation. Six years ago he used 15,000 of the plastic building bricks to make a four-foot wide model of the Frederick Robie House in Chicago.

Lego Research Tower

He uses practical considerations in deciding what to build, “If certain Lego pieces fit the shape of the building, that’s a key that’s something I can build. The round corners (of the Tower) were just the right shape. Realizing I could accomplish that was the impetus I could build that building.”

Lego Research Tower

SC Johnson gave him PDF copies of some of the original drawings for the building. Eighty hours later, over some two and a half months in the summer of 2012, up to 6,000 Lego blocks in eight colors had been transformed into an almost three-foot tall model of Wright’s landmark Tower.

Lego Research Tower

Eyerly planned one floor of the Tower model in a computer Lego CAD program to help him estimate how many pieces he would need. “I don’t do a ton in CAD. It’s mostly a free build, just snapping pieces together. I do a lot of math ahead of time. That’s why I like scale drawings, so I know how many studs (the round knob atop each brick) it needs to be.”

Lego Research Tower

His models don’t come together easily. He had to rebuild the Robie House four times, the Tower twice. “You get to a certain point and realize something won’t work and you take it apart and retry.”

Lego Research Tower

The company learned about the Tower model after Eyerly showed it at the Brick World Lego convention in Wheeling, Illinois, and invited him to display it at their headquarters. Eyerly enjoys peoples’ reactions to his models because they evoke emotional responses, he says. “Wright’s architecture is interesting. It often draws out memories from people. Often you get emotions or feelings from people. It often ties in personally for people, which makes it interesting for me to hear the stories.” That is even more the case with the Tower model because he knows many people who work at SC Johnson. His next model will be Wright’s Bernard Schwartz House (1939) in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Ironically, construction was supervised by Edgar Tafel, one of Wright’s original Taliesin Fellowship the apprentices. Tafel had already supervised construction of the SC Johnson Administration Building and Wingspread, as well as part of Fallingwater.

Photos / First Tower Tour

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson

The first public guests to ever tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower had about 45 minutes to explore the 1950s artifacts and displays about the architectural history of the building on two floors of the building, 3 Main and 3 Mezz, Friday morning. Interest in these first-ever tours has been so great that beginning in late May tours will be run five days a week through September, rather than only two days a week. These photos are from the first tour:

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And I leave you with one photo from the companion tour of the Administration Building:

First Tower Tour

Countdown to Tower opening

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg for SC Johnson

In just twelve hours the first public tours ever of the SC Johnson Research Tower begin. There is such demand for the tours that Wednesday and Thursday have just been added to the reservation schedule. We whet your appetite for your visit with some photos shot this afternoon, including some from a unique vantage point. The Research Tower is Wright’s only executed tap-root tower (Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer told me that Price Tower is not a true tap-root tower because it is tied into the foundation of the adjoining office building).

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A portrait of Mr. Wright and H.F. Johnson Jr. at the Tower is on the elevator door on 3 Mezz:

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The Tower’s original lighting scheme was replicated as part of the restoration of the building (see older posts for photos of the Tower re-lighting at dusk on December 21, the Winter Solstice).

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You can see photos of some of the 1950s artifacts on display two articles below this one. To make tour reservations:

www.scjohnson.com/visit

Some people have asked me technical questions: today’s photos were shot with a 14mm f2.8 lens on a full frame digital camera body (a Nikon D600). I do not particularly favor one brand camera…I choose Nikons because of my investment in Nikkor lenses over many years.

Inside the SC Johnson Research Tower

(c) Mark Hertzberg

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The response to the opening of the SC Johnson Research Tower for the first public tours ever has been so strong that Sunday tours will now be available, as well.  http://www.scjohnson.com/en/company/visiting.aspx

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Two floors of the landmark (the “I”word is overused) building have been restored and furnished as they looked in November, 1950 when the building opened. Tours begin May 2. Here is a preview:

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