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Fortaleza Hall

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2010, Norman Foster of Foster + Partners

The newest building on the grounds is Fortaleza Hall, which houses a replica of the Spirit of Carnaúba, an amphibious airplane used by Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr. (grandson of S. C. Johnson) on an adventurous expedition to the Brazilian jungles in 1935. Johnson sought out the Carnaúba palm tree, which provided the wax found in Johnson Paste Wax, then the company’s signature product. In 1998, his son Sam commissioned this replica and reenacted the original trip. Fortaleza Hall now stands to honor Sam Johnson and his family’s history; in addition to the plane and a small museum, it houses an employee commons, including a cafeteria, fitness center, store, and bank.

World-renowned London architect Foster, whose firm’s works include the reconstructed Reichstag in Berlin, designed the airy structure, which is anchored by an arc of Kasota limestone, cut from the same quarry Wright used for the Research Tower. With its roof in the form of an oval disk, supported by ten slender freestanding columns and a cylindrical curtain wall, the structure suggests a spaceship hovering over the ground. Inside, visitors pass by a curved waterfall, which drops fourteen feet into a black-granite reflecting pool, and a vertical garden of tropical plants designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc. Beyond the waterfall, the Spirit of Carnaúba hangs from the atrium ceiling, appearing as though it is about to land on a grassy airstrip beyond the glazed wall. The airplane flies over a map of the Western Hemisphere, a mosaic constructed of end-grain wood. At the lower level, concrete walls, acid-etched with palm trees, and a “soundscape” of monkeys and other wildlife complete the Brazilian jungle theme.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Fortaleza Hall", [Racine, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 173-174.

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