#115. Herbert F. Johnson Residence, Wingspread (1937)
Wind Point, Wisconsin

Built for Herbert F. Johnson, grandson of S.C. Johnson, the Wingspread was is Wright’s last of the prairie houses. (a) The central living space is a three-story high octagon, and the plan opens up into a pinwheel, with sleeping quarters in the north wing, kitchen in the opposite. Although Wright was opposed to swimming pools, he designed a pool for the kids and compromised by undercutting the side walls so that the pool itself seems to disappear, leaving only the water and reflection. The fireplace was supposed to hold long, two-story-something pieces of logs so that they would burn slowly from bottom to top, but the physics of burning defeated the aesthetic choice and the fireplace could not function as designed. The central fireplace is an oval cylindrical extrusion in brick, supporting the roof structure that forms an octagon, sloping down outwards. (b) The clerestory windows surround the brick chimney, illuminating it with natural light and opening up the room to the sky. (c) The space becomes an open octagonal plan, with two stories sharing the same open central space. Even without barriers, the feeling of separation between different spaces remain through the orientation of furniture surrounding central chimney, slightly variations in elevation of floors. The movement of light through the clerestory windows that encircle the living space, is constant throughout the day. Many Wright homeowners claim that from now and then, they’d witness something neat with the light, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all the geometrically shaped lights disappearing all at once when the cloud covered the sun. The cantilevered wooden balcony grows out of the brick mass and the structure “spreads its wings”. (d)