A flight through time

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Wright campus celebrates legacy of H. F. Johnson Jr with completed Fortaleza Hall

In 1935, H. F. Johnson Jr made the 15,000 mile flight from Wisconsin to Brazil, in search of a sustainable source of natural wax – the carnauba palm tree. Sixty-three years after his father made the flight in a Sikorsky-38 amphibious plane, H. F. Johnson Jr’s son repeated the flight in a replica of the original plane.

The legacy of the this incredible journey has been commemorated in the opening of Fortaleza Hall, as the new space provides a permanent home for the historic replica aircraft and regales the story of its flight to visitors and passers-by. Built on the Frank Lloyd Wright campus in Wisconsin and designed by architecture firm Foster and Partners, the project also involved the construction of a Community Building, with a range of staff facilities including restaurants, shops and a gymnasium.

Situated adjacent to the Wright campus’ ‘Johnson Wax’ office building and research tower, the fully transparent Fortaleza Hall allows the aircraft to be displayed to both students and the general public at all times. The clear façade contrasts with the surrounding solid and internalised buildings on the Wright campus, whilst the oval form allows an easily-accessed 360 degree view of the replica plane. An etched mural depicting the Carnauba rainforest and a wooden mosaic form the basis of the groundwork, below the suspended aircraft.

The second building in this project, the Community Building, has been designed to provide a more solid visual counterpoint to the campus. The Kasota stone walls of this rectangular structure echo the brick masonry of Wright’s headquarters, whilst the façade nearest the Fortaleza Hall is concave, ‘to embrace the form’ of the newly constructed partner building. The buildings are linked by a glazed entrance atrium, containing a green wall, water wall and a reflecting pool. An undercroft connects the space to a matrix of tunnels that form the principal communications network through the campus.

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