Conductron Corporation by Alden B. Dow

The Conductron Corporation was founded in 1960 by University of Michigan professor of electrical engineering, Dr. Keeve “Kip” Siegel. It was a research and development firm that developed radar for aerial reconnaissance among many other high-tech innovations for the time. Alden B. Dow was hired by Dr. Siegel to design the headquarters for his company in 1961.  

Perhaps inspired by the type of research it would house, one of the architect’s first design development drawings depicted a rather futuristic structure that looked like a spaceship. By the time working drawings were completed in August 1962, the building had taken on a simplified L-shape footprint. J.A. Fredman, Inc. of Pontiac, Michigan, was selected as the general contractor for its bid of $551,112. The total estimated project cost amounted to $1,231,646.

43,000 square foot building is situated on a 62-acre parcel of land opposite a dairy farm on Plymouth Road. The tan brick structure is set low to the ground with wings to the north and east. A plaster frieze consisting of four-foot square panels extends along the roofline. Separating the rows of windows on the upper and lower levels are plaster spandrels. The entrance is nearly hidden behind a brick retaining wall at the juncture of the two wings.

The main lobby is on the upper level
, where there are 24 offices in the north wing and 26 offices in the east wing, as well as a library. The east wing also contains a large electrical laboratory, two chemistry labs, a drafting room, instrument room, machine shop, and stock room. The lower level includes an additional 24 offices, a conference room, and equipment room.

Conductron became one of the area’s most successful R&D firms. The McDonnell-Douglas Corporation bought the business in 1967, but then moved it out of Ann Arbor. The structure has had several occupants over the years, including Tom Monaghan’s Ave Maria Law School
, a branch of Cooley Law School, and is currently the home of Concordia University’s School of Nursing and other health care programs.

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