The Color Block Wall of the Dow Chemical Company 2040 Plastics Building

Alden B. Dow began the design of the Dow Chemical Company’s Abbott Road Center in 1963.  The design phase continued over the next several years, during which time it came to be called the 2040 Plastics Building.  A purely functional brick and glass exterior housed offices and laboratory space for the company’s expanding line of products made of plastics, including construction materials, packaging, coatings, and extrusions.  In June of 1970, the building was formally named in honor of Dr. Charles J. Strosacker for his long-time association with the development of plastic products and processes.

When the building opened in 1970, visitors entering the reception area were presented with a view only Mr. Dow could have created – a wall of brightly-colored blocks arranged in a geometric grid. 

Correspondence contained in the project files from October 1968 reveals only what was referred to as “a special wall made of Naugahyde blocks in different colors.”  With Naugahyde being a fabric with a plastic coating, the architect was able to use the wall to illustrate the connection between science and art, or as he put it, “Where there is an art, there is a science…where there is a science, there is an art.”

There are no large-scale drawings of the wall, only two undated small sketches showing an early block concept and a near-final color drawing roughly the size of a sheet of legal paper.

The special wall required a different type of lighting fixture mounted flush in the ceiling above it.  The revised lighting diagram indicated that the wall was actually 40 feet wide by 9 feet high.

Since the design and execution of the wall was not covered in the original contract, it was therefore an added expense requiring a separate cost estimate.  Further documentation shows that the construction of the wall panels and built-in reception desk was done in the shop of Alden B. Dow Associates for the cost of $5,100.00.  The installation was handled by Spence Brothers for an additional $900.00.

Plans call for the Color Block Wall to be moved and installed in the Midland Center for the Arts, a fitting home for a true work of art.

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