A recent Facebook post about the University of Michigan Administration Building and its demolition prompted an interesting observation about how “un-Dow-like” the design of the building appeared. While the exterior displayed a composed order of squares and rectangles, it was not the first time Alden B. Dow composed the surface of a non-residential structure.
Nine years earlier, in 1955, he designed the Dow Chemical Company Administration Center on Abbott Road in Midland, later known as the 2020 Chemical Building and the Willard H. Dow 2020 Building. The original 153,000 square foot building housed 450 employees in the General Chemical Sales offices and the Technical Service and Development operations. The exterior was made of raised concrete panels in a carefully arranged pattern of rectangles and squares of different sizes. Square windows in groups of two or more were inserted in the narrower panels. From the linear simplicity of the façade of the 2020 Building grew the ordered, dimensional complexity of the later U of M Administration Building.
As the company expanded, Mr. Dow and his firm designed additions to the original building in 1962, 1964, and 1975. But the building was not destined to stand forever. In 2015 it was demolished to make way for the construction of the new Global Dow Headquarters. More than 90% of the debris generated from the demolition and construction was recycled, including over 18,000 tons of concrete from the 2020 Building, much of which was crushed and re-used for temporary roads and new parking lot subsurfaces.
All photos by Balthazar Korab