The SC Johnson headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, features two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most prominent, non-residential designs: The Administration Building (1939) and the Research Tower (1950). LIFE magazine said the office was “the shape of things to come” when it opened in 1939. All images provided by SC Johnson unless otherwise noted.
There’s nothing particularly revelatory about the open-plan office, especially considering the constant flux found in modern workplace design. But far outside the corridors of high-tech industry and startup spaces, one company headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, still provides a dashing vision of the modern American workplace, despite having recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. The SC Johnson Administration Building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, eschews business clichés: workers are greeted by a streamlined, muscular exterior made from ribbons of glass and brick, more campus than corporate, before entering a light-filled interior, with rows of organic, curved columns creating an abstract forest surrounding the secretary pool. Open for tours, including special bus trips that coincide with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, these landmark structures still offer a singular view of the office (and look fresh after undergoing a recent eight-year, $30 million restoration). The soft lines and cathedral-like air inside suggests that, if the office furniture was removed, it would feel less like a place of work than one of contemplation and reflection.