Greenhills School by Alden B. Dow
Designed by Alden B. Dow in 1966, Greenhills School is situated on a 30-acre estate known as “Greenhills” by its former owner, the Earhart family, just north of the Huron River. The initial program analysis for the building was based on a potential maximum enrollment of 240 pupils with a 1/20 teacher-student ratio, grades 7-12 inclusive.
A contract was signed with the Ann Arbor firm of Henry deKoning Construction Company on September 1, 1967, with construction to be completed by March 5, 1968. The base cost proposal for the project was $281,160.
The school opened in the fall of 1968 with 64 students in grades 7 through 9, as well as 11 faculty members. The exterior makes extensive use of 8-inch square white concrete blocks topped by narrow laminated wood beams. The flat horizontal appearance is interrupted by clerestories that serve to illuminate gathering spaces inside with natural light.
Interior walls are of the same white square blocks with exposed laminated wood beams in ceilings throughout the building. The library occupies a central location with classrooms grouped together by academic discipline. Perhaps the most unique design element of the school is the Forum, a large circular three-level seating and meeting space flanked by classrooms. In a letter to Headmaster Edward M. Read, the architect wrote:
“This area will develop as a wonderful spot to meet before classes in the morning, to hold large discussion-lecture classes, and on an interim basis, an assembly area for the entire student body and faculty. In addition to these practical uses, it adds a surprise touch which might well be the most significant feature of the school.”
Over the next few years as the student body increased, the footprint of the structure was expanded to include additional classrooms, science labs, a lecture court, an art court, and a dining room.