Frank Lloyd Wright: Wingspread, Racine

Wingspread, also known as the Herbert F. Johnson House, was built in the village of Wind Point near Racine, Wisconsin. It is secluded in its own grounds: a haven in today’s noisy, ever bustling world.

It was in 1936 that Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new administration building for S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., (also known as Johnson Wax). Completed in 1939, Wright called the 14,000-foot creation Wingspread, because its four wings embrace the prairie, while the roof over the central Great Hall soars skyward.

Designing Wingspread, Frank Lloyd Wright followed his own belief: “Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.”

Wingspread’s primary materials – Kasota limestone, red Streator Brick, tinted stucco and unstained tidewater cypress – anchor the house to the earth, while its many windows and skylights admit air, light and views of the landscape. The building’s four wings extend from the house’s central core and each has a different function: master suite, kitchen, servants’ quarters, children’s and guests’ rooms. Spiral stairs rise from the centre to an observatory. From inside the house one can easily see out, while from the outside the house’s appearance is more introvert, dark and secluded.

On 24 June 1961, the Johnson family formally dedicated Wingspread to The Johnson Foundation as a conference centre and in 1990 the U.S. Secretary of the Interior designated Wingspread as a National Historic Landmark.

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