The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Natural Science Building

The teaching of the sciences has been emphasized from the very beginning in the curriculum of the University of Michigan. This emphasis led, eventually, to a serious lack of space for classrooms and laboratories. Accordingly, in 1913 the Regents asked the legislature for an appropriation of $375,000 for a Natural Science Building, which was granted. Plans for the proposed building, prepared by Albert Kahn, of Detroit, the architect, were accepted in October, 1913 (R.P., 1910-14, p. 815). Construction began four months later, in May, 1914, under the contractors, Irwin and Leighton, of Philadelphia, and the building was completed in the latter part of 1915. Throughout the period of construction Professor John F. Shepard, of the Department of Psychology, acted as the representative of the University in overseeing the details of design and equipment. The eventual completion of the building and the construction of a botanical conservatory measuring 30 by 60 feet on the southeast corner represented a final cost of $408,000.

The departments accommodated include Botany, Geology, Mineralogy, Page  1693and Zoology, and the School of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Library. Formerly, the Department of Psychology was also housed in the building.

The building stands on the south side of North University Avenue, directly across from Hill Auditorium, on the site of the old Homeopathic Medical School, which had incorporated the westernmost of the two professors' residences on the north side of the campus. It is separated from the Chemistry Building by the Mall which extends from the General Library Building to the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

The Natural Science Building is constructed of dark red tapestry brick with trim of light terra-cotta and stone. Practically the only ornamentation is provided by patterns in the brick. The building, carefully designed with its essential purpose as a laboratory building in view, was a pioneer in University construction, since the architect, Albert Kahn, utilized a newly developed system employed successfully in the construction of large factories, the use of regularly placed steel and concrete piers to support the building, making all the rooms exactly the width of the spaces between the piers or multiples of that space. The walls between the piers are utilized entirely for windows, thus affording a maximum amount of light. The building is almost square in shape, except for one corner which is cut off to leave room for the campus diagonal walk. In this corner is the amphitheater, which seats 482 persons, and above it the Natural Resources Library. The total floor space comprises approximately 155,000 square feet, divided among 270 rooms.

Upon entering the building from North University Avenue the section occupied by the Department of Zoology lies to the right. To the left of the entrance are the offices and laboratories of the Department of Mineralogy and, farther down the hall to the eastern entrance, is the section devoted to the Department of Geology. Also on the east side is the School of Natural Resources, while on the southeastern corner, extending along the south side to the amphitheater, are the classrooms and laboratories of the Department of Botany. Special stairways in each of these sections simplify access from one floor to another for each department. An elevator is available for moving heavy apparatus.

From either the front (north) or east entrance low broad stairways lead into long, terrazzo-paved corridors extending the length of the building on each side. There are entrances at either side of the southwest part of the building occupied by the auditorium, which in daytime is lighted by skylights and is furnished with complete equipment for the demonstration of experiments. Five tables can be set up singly or in a group and are equipped for electricity, gas, compressed air, and water installations. For many years the Natural Science Auditorium was used for special lectures and other University functions which are now given in other auditoriums.

The building contains numerous laboratories, all equipped with specially adapted laboratory furniture: acid-proof tables, specially designed sinks, and other features. Most of the laboratories are of three or four units, and the offices and research laboratories of the faculty are of one or two units. Many of the classrooms are equipped for picture projection. On the northeast corner of the second floor are the two connected museums of the Department of Mineralogy and Geology. There is an aquarium room with troughs and tanks, enabling the Department of Zoology to carry on experiments in aquatic life. In 1930 an animal house was erected in the central court.

Page  1694The building is valued at $868,600, including the $210,000 cost of rehabilitation, which was carried on chiefly in the library section in 1953-54.