artwork for the Johnson Wax Pavilion as it would appear at the 1964-65
New York World's Fair. Image
Source: Scan of image from my personal copy of the official New York
World's Fair Guidebook.
"This pavilion, a great gold disk which seems to float 24 feet above
the ground, is supported by its surrounding columns. It
houses a 500-seat theater in which a documentary movie dramatizes the
theme of brotherhood. An exhibition at ground level offers a
climbing contraption for the entertainment of children, a home care
information center and a shoeshine center that provides free shines.
On the ground floor is a display which shows the wide range
of materials man has used as floors, from marble to teakwood.
Pavilion guides are foreign students.
Be Alive.' This sensitive 18-minute color movie, produced by
Francis Thompson, whose documentaries have won many awards,
uses three projectors, as many screens, and stereophonic sound to show
the daily lives of people around the world. They grow up,
fall in love, work, play and grow old, demonstrating that "men
everywhere share at the deepest level the same drives, dreams, foibles."
Child Entertainment Center. Grown-ups can
watch while children climb through a 'fun machine' - a mazelike device
full of mirrors that fracture images, squeeze-bulbs that emit strange
noises and cranks that operate robots.
Shoeshine Center. Ten polishing machines operating
simultaneously can buff the shoes of 300 visitors an hour."
Golden Rondelle as it appears today on the SC Johnson campus in Racine,
At the conclusion of The Fair, the "Golden Rondelle", the floating
disk-like theater of the pavilion, was carefully dismantled and shipped
to Johnson Wax's headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. There,
the team of architects at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin were employed
to design a new structure for the Rondelle which would be more akin to
the rest of the buildings on the campus. The result was an
odd combination of Frank Lloyd Wright's classic architecture and the
space-age design of Johnson Wax's World's Fair pavilion.
Where a reflecting pool once existed under the Golden Rondelle, a nice
shaded plaza now stands. Benches provide a place for people
to rest before entering the building for one of SC Johnson's
presentations or their monthly showing of the pavilion's original film,
"To Be Alive!".
Inside the Golden Rondelle, the theater looks pretty much exactly as it
did during The Fair. Red carpet and red upholstery are used
throughout. The projection room for the theater has
experienced upgrades and a new print of "To Be Alive!" was commissioned
in recent years to ensure this timeless film is available for future
of important note is that the film, "To Be Alive!" went on to win an
Academy Award for "Documentary Short Subject" the year after
Fair closed, in 1966!
relic of the World's Fair is regularly maintained by the team at SC
Johnson's headquarters. The team which manages the building
is well-informed of the Golden Rondelle's history and definitely
appreciate its contribution to the World's Fair community.
Tours of the campus each week include the Golden Rondelle and also
include a brief history lesson about the importance of the theater.
Monthly showings of "To Be Alive!" ensure that this pavilion
maintains much of its original World's Fair purpose, even if the
exterior has undergone some cosmetic changes.
the Golden Rondelle on days when "To Be Alive!" is showing.
This World's Fair relic is very active as a venue for
community presentations as well as showings of two films created for
the theater. There is activity there almost daily.
Here are some photos I took during my visit to the Golden Rondelle
in July (2017).
original New York World's Fair Guidebook full-page ad for the Johnson
Wax pavilion and "To Be Alive!"
Golden Rondelle out in front of the SC Johnson campus. Note
the Frank Lloyd Wright tower behind.
As we approach, we see children entering for
one of SC Johnson's many educational programs.
Where a reflecting pool once was, a tranquil
exists for people to use while waiting to enter the Golden Rondelle for
one of their presentations. To the right, you see the exit
The entrance doors, lobby, and staircase to the theater are
The stairs to the Golden Rondelle are ahead and to the right,
just past the display cabinet which contains vintage and current SC
Johnson products. The artwork on the walls includes original
photos of the pavilion at the New York World's Fair, concept artwork,
and the original attraction posters for the Golden Rondelle.
artwork for the pavilion as it would be seen at the New York World's
original attraction posters for the Golden Rondelle.
Golden Rondelle Theater.
Behind the curtains you'll find the three screens needed to
present the original World's Fair attraction film "To Be Alive!".
to have been able to go inside the Golden Rondelle!
fo visiting the Johnson Wax pavilion's Golden Rondelle with me!
Visitors to the Golden Rondelle may reserve a seat for a showing of "To
Be Alive!" by visiting their page here. It is highly
recommended that you arrive early so you may take in the beauty of the
architecture before heading inside the theater.
Tours of the entire SC Johnson campus, which was designed by famous
architect Frank Llloyd Writght are also available throughout the month.
A link to tour times is available on the page linked above.
this low-quality, single-screen version of "To Be Alive!" which was
found on YouTube. Remember, the film is a three-screen
program, so you are missing out on most of the presentation here...it
is definitely worth it to go see the entire film for yourself in the
Golden Rondelle if you can!
following individuals contributed towards making it possible for me to
visit and document this relic of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.
I'd like to take a moment to thank them for helping make my
to personally visit the remaining parts of the New York World's Fair
pavilions come true!
Michelle and Markist from the SC Johnson Golden Rondelle
is hereby dedicated to these individuals.