Upjohn Building 88


Now that I’m unemployed, it’s only fitting that my pformer employer would tear down my pformer office.

Demolition work on that building, called Pfizer Building 88, started several weeks ago and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, he said. The final workers were relocated from that largely unused building to other Pfizer sites at the end of 2005.

I know, I know. The world can’t survive without me. One Human Resources chick gets downsized and the company suffers. It’s so sad.

Actually, demolition of the building has been in the works for years. It’s a shame because my office was unbelievable — austere, sleek, and well positioned. I had a perfect view of a nature preserve. The colors in the autumn were amazing, and I never had to worry about seasonal affective disorder like the rest of Corporate America because my office had floor-to-ceiling windows. I had plenty of sunlight.

Now there’s nothing but sunlight on the old building…

The “look” of the building was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright & Mies van der Rohe and designed by Bruce Graham of Skidmore Owings and Merrill. (Graham also designed the Sears Tower and John Hancock Buildings in Chicago.) I like this letter in the local paper that pays tribute to the legacy and importance of the building itself.

The Upjohn administration building on Portage Road, completed in 1961 and now being destroyed by Pfizer, is one of the most distinguished contributions of Bruce Graham, the Skidmore Owings and Merrill architect who designed it.

In the “Modern Buildings” volume in the British series “Great Buildings of the World,” Building 88 has a full chapter as one of the 12 most important post-World War II buildings. Over the years I have visited many executive offices, none remotely comparable to Building 88.

In its announcement of the demolition, Pfizer claimed the building “has no significant historical architectural value.” This casual mendacity is typical of Pfizer, alas.

They bought The Upjohn Co. but without founder W. E. Upjohn’s motto: “Keep the Quality Up.”

~ Art Hilgart had an office in Building 88 for 30 years

I also like all the quotation marks in the letter, too!

I had the privilege of working in that building for 18 months. The best thing about the building was the 1960s executive offices with private bathrooms. You know I totally rocked those bathrooms and ignored the PLEASE DON’T USE THIS BATHROOM sign.

If there’s a private bathroom at work, I’m using it. You can fire me, but I’m not willing to compromise.

Other cool things:

  • There was an abandoned barber shop in the building.
  • Escalators moved when you stepped on the landing pads & turned off when the last person stepped off the landing pad — it was a green building before its time!
  • There was lots of cool art on the walls.
  • There were Norman Rockwell paintings and mod furniture, along with late 60s/early 70s shag carpeting and orange walls.
  • We had Buddhist statues in the courtyards and zen rock gardens near parking lot.
  • We also had baby ducks in the reflecting pool that were cared for by the security guards.

The building doesn’t mean much to me since I’m not a long-time resident of Kalamazoo; however, it was referred to as “The Taj Mahal” and was the crown jewel of West Michigan for many years. It’s very sad to see its demise.

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