Johnson Wax

You may or may not recall that I have a love of architecture. You do not know that, after a horrible job experience in DC and before my move to Manhattan, I had a Lost Period and spent 3 months driving to various Frank Lloyd Wright sites. In April of 2000, I made a pilgrimage to Racine, WI to see the Johnson Wax building, perhaps his most impressive commercial building.

This is my photo from the second floor of the lily pads that support the main roof (on the left). Wright became angry when building inspectors doubted the ability of the pads to support the roof, and he piled on about 10 times the weight the pad would have to bear to demonstrate it’s strength – only when it was that overloaded did it fail.

The walkway in front of me appears to float when viewed from below. Wright said that working in the building would be like working “in a glad”, and he was right. It’s a magnificent space. If you haven’t been, go.

One more photo: looking back from the entrance, a space that calms you down before you enter your workplace.


My dad is a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. When we went to Florida or Wash DC by car (which is 48 hours from Toronto), we took some detours to Fallingwater and other places. It was my dad’s Disneyworld (he hated Despot Center) and about the only thing he really looked forward to on family trips.

I don’t think he was willing to visit Wisconsin to see this building. If he weren’t so paranoid of the intertubes then I would have forwarded the photos to him.

@ManchuCandidate: He could hit Chicago, see the Unity Temple and all the other Wright buildings (including his home and studio), stay in the Cheney house, like I did (Wright later had an affair with that client), and swing up to WI to see Taliesin and this brilliant building. Hell – he could go to Richland Center, WI, where Wright was born, and see a storage building he did.

BTW, any architecture-loving Stinquers who find themselves (unfortunately) in Ohio should check out the Westcott House. It’s from the middle of the Prairie style period, and was only restored very recently (they’re celebrating 5 years later this month).

Interesting not only for the design, but for the extensive rework required to get the house back into shape – it had been converted to apartments for a while, then abandoned.

@al2o3cr: Haven’t seen that one, but have seen this – it was somewhat of a disappointment. Even a genius has an off day.

TJ to something else beautiful: Yesterday’s APOD of the Sunflower Galaxy. LINK TEXT

@blogenfreude: Have you ever visited the Marin Civic Center? It’s quite cool.

@SanFranLefty: No – have been to the Civic Center in Madison (that they built 40 years after he designed it). I desperately want to see the Marin County building. One day, I will come out there, and you will have to let me sleep on your sofa.

@blogenfreude: Did you make it to the Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK?
Phillips Petroleum had it built to be a combo corporate headquarters and living quarters. There are no right angles in the rooms, apart from floor and ceiling. It’s now a museum and art center that includes an inn, for your total immersion experience.

@blogenfreude: We hit Fallingwater last year, to great family approval. Met a guy who started out his career at Johnson, said that leakage was a problem. A lot of FLW’s buildings have suffered roof/ceiling leakage, and even Fallingwater is in for an overhaul, I hear.

Great factoid about the Kaufmans of P’burgh? Nudists.

@Nabisco: Did you see Kentuck Knob, ten minutes from Fallingwater? If not, you have to go back.


That one does seem a little more restrained – then again, it was intended as a middle-class home. The Westcotts certainly didn’t have *that* problem. :P

They all leaked, and there weren’t enough closets. Beautiful, though.

I cannot think of Johnson’s wax without these lyrics, from Purple Toupee by They Might Be Giants:

I remember the year I went to camp
I heard about some lady named Selma and some blacks
Somebody put their fingers in the President’s ears
It wasn’t too much later they came out with Johnson’s wax
I remember the book depository where they crowned the king of Cuba
Now that’s all I can think of, but I’m sure there’s something else
Way down inside me I can feel it coming back

Hey now, someone, tell me my feelings aren’t alone, this is a song from the mid-90s by nobodies, it was never a hit, but I heard it a few times, and it made me cry, I just now found it again, here it is:


Very cool track – the rest of the album (from flipping through the samples on iTunes) is pretty good too. Just bought it, as a matter of fact.

Does that strike anybody else as odd? I can remember digging through used CD bins all over town and (later) bugging people on Usenet to track down things that were both more popular and more recent (the Caroline’s Spine is from 1997) back in the day. Now, it’s just listen/click/bought. Darn kids, get off my lawn!

BTW: the Deleware Republicans appear to have a bit of a problem on their hands. Wonder what her teabagger faithful will think of a massive discrimination lawsuit…

@al2o3cr: Its a strange subject for a modern alt rock band, WWII, but it seems to me to be completely neutral on the subject of war, its focused on the emotions, the personal impact of the tragedy. I find it incerdibly moving.

I just read the Wiki article about the Sullivan brothers, contrary to the song, the Navy sent three officers to the house, including a chaplain and a doctor. They were not heartless. The father of the Sullivan boys greeted them, and the lead officer said “I have to give you some news about your sons.” The father, like anyone, knew what it meant for military officers to come to your door, when you have kids serving, and he asked “which one.” Thats some bone-chilling pathos right there, how could anyone expect that it would be all of them? The officer, according to the quote from Wiki, responded, “I’m sorry, all five.” Tear my heart out, please. Fucking sad.

Amazingly good song, its hard to write about a topic like that without getting cliched or sentimental, its just right.

@Promnight: I read some WWII fiction by Robb White when I was in jr high. The book was about a PT boat with a crazed ensign or lt/jg in command who was hooked on morphine. Awesome book.

@Nabisco: I read that Falling Water was falling down.

Trying so hard to stay awake for another hour for Mad Men. And no spoilers from those of y’all in other time zones!

@Promnight: I was introduced to that song freshman year of high school by a local band that covered it (I had an enormous crush on the lead singer, of course) and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since.

@SanFranLefty: I liked the part where Don Draper fought giant ants with a flame thrower.

Or when Joan was hit with a gamma ray and turned into She Hulk.

The Kalita Humphreys Theater, one of three theaters designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has been replace by the Borg inspired Wyly Theatre
at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas.

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