A Designer's Vision

In 1936, Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for SC Johnson Company’s holistic workspace reached a crisis when the Wisconsin Industrial Commission denied Wright a building permit because they didn't believe a mushroom-like column could support the 12 tons of weight he suggested.  

To appease his critics, Wright staged a test, dumping sandbags on top of a column to prove its strength. Once workers reached 12 tons, they paused. Wright instructed them to continue, standing beneath the structure and tapping it with his cane for effect. Construction crews eventually loaded 60 tons of material atop the lone column, stopping not because the column failed, but because they ran out of space to add more weight. Wright was given his building permit.

Recently, we designed a steel hanger system to support girders fastened to each side of a column supporting a roof.  Our solution supported the weight and created a continuous load path, resulting in a clean aesthetic.  The City of Norfolk disagreed.  We replied citing the relevant building code provision and our interpretation.  Again we were denied.

Fortunately, we live in a different age than Wright.  Using modeling software, we proved to the building official that our solution was structurally sound.  After a few days, the city granted us a building permit.  

As an International Code Council member, I informed the official that we would pursue the inclusion of our system in the next code update.