Brick by brick
The walls came tumbling down at the Fleming Building in July amid a flurry of dust and crashing debris. Passersby were reduced to awestruck children (or was that just me?), as dinosaur-like machines devoured the structure from the inside out. Read the Michigan Today piece, FlemingBuilding, RIP, about the building’s lifespan. The captions here were sourced from reader comments below that story. (Lead image by Jeff Karoub; others are by D. Holdship.)
Gone, Baby, Gone
Stuart Bagley, Class of 1976
“I didn’t think the exterior of that building was ugly. I’ve never been inside it. But architecture, like any art, is in the eye of the beholder. Sorry to see the Fleming building go. We hardly knew you.”
It started innocently enough
David Marker, Classes of 1980 and 1985
“Always hated the fortress as I walked past it each day between co-op housing and campus. The only time I was inside was to sign a GEO contract with the University in 1981, ending a many-year dispute. That building always told students to ‘stay outside’ even if the architect didn’t mean for that to be the message.”
Doris Rubenstein, Class of 1971
“I was in A2 when this was brand-spanking new and still unnamed. Couldn’t agree more that President Fleming deserved a more appropriate monument to his administration at the University. I don’t get back to campus very often, but when I do and I see changes, they are always better than what had been there before.”
What’s this? Open windows!
Jim Randolph, Class of 1970
“Having spent a bit of time inside, I can assure everyone it was not at all suited to imaginative or creative reflection while gazing out the windows. It provided only small, rectangular still shots of the real world outside.”
Surrrender to fate
David Kessell, PhD Class of 1959
“I recall that this monstrosity was built in the era when student groups would periodically occupy university admin buildings; especially in California. The place was supposed to be ‘occupation-proof,’ unlike the prior admin bldg that had lots of first-floor windows. Only thing missing was the barbed wire. Just as well that it is being moved to the dustbin of history.”
Celeste Novak, Class of 1982 and 1984
“I am not a fan of this building although I admire the work of Alden Dow in Ann Arbor. I find that it is a good example of what happens when a design “Parti” takes precedence over the way humans inhabit buildings. Architecture is at its best when people, the environment, place, and art are merged together. The University of Michigan can do better. I’m hoping they will, and also consider a net zero building for this prominent site.”
Another day at the office
Mary Sandberg, Dental Classes of 1976 and 1992
“My aunt Grace Oerther worked on the third floor. She was the first woman I knew who had her own secretary and I loved going into the building and up to her office. I never thought of it as anything but beautiful and it has a nice interplay of location with the Cube, the Union, and the surrounding area. I’m sad that it will be torn down. Such a work of art.”
Larry Pease, Classes of 1973, 1975, and 1978
“I remember the building for the confrontations I witnessed between the city police and the students. I vividly remember the surrounded police car being rocked by hundreds of agitated students and the line of police gathered on the small knoll between West Quad and the Administration Building. People on both sides ended up in the ER.”
Mary (Marsh) Matthews, Class of 1953
“I believe it’s a distinctive and handsome building that deserves preservation. My husband worked in the building for many years, so I admit to a biased affection for it. But I am also skeptical about executive decisions, like this one, that seem casually dismissive of recent architectural design. Would the Fleming Building qualify for more respect if it were a few decades older?”
Tangled up in blue
Dave Burgett, Class of 1977
“I’m sorry to see the Fleming building go. Having been there for 50 years, it is part of the experience of the overwhelming majority of living alumni. There should be a historical panel to remind us of what stood there. Let’s hope that whatever is built there is a masterpiece that feels well worth the loss — and has large, well-placed windows.”
Nothing to see here
Robert Primeau, Classes of 1972 and 1974
“The Fleming Building, Regents’ Plaza, and the Cube were central to my freshman year ‘69-‘70 living in West Quad and to hundreds of campus visits since. History was made in that building. Decisions that helped change Michigan and the world were enlightened by the sunbeams that filtered into those spaces and enlightened leadership.”
Michael Wolk - 1970 BS Architecture
Perhaps not among Alden Dow’s best work, but what of its historic value if any(legitimate question) ? And what is is intended to replace it? Could it not have been retrofitted creatively, as an example of a carbon neutral, zero energy and people-engaging “new” building? adding another layer of history to the building and speaking to our moment? I remember seeing it every day living next door in west quad and walking to the A and D building just minutes away at the time, so it looms large in my memory.
It’s hard to evaluate when function and urban context of the proposed building is missing. Let us know more, please.
P David Temple - 1975
The student uprisings that lead to the building’s design were a response to our national leaders using non-college students as canon fodder in an unjust war. This building’s “fortress” design stood as a metaphor of an “us against them” mentality that pervaded our institutions at that time and, thankfully, now has no place on our university campus.
Clark Miller - 1971
They thought that the limited access entry and narrow windows would keep students from occupying the Admin Building. Poor Robben Fleming learned at the BAM Strike in 1970 that when most of your employees are minimum wage students who support the strike and opened the doors to the protestors, your building would never be secure.
Linda Varone - 1971
While the Admin Building design was misguided from the beginning, I hope that something meaningful on the UM campus will be named after Robben Fleming. As president during the politically heated late-60s-early-70s, he walked the tightrope of allowing peaceful, if revolutionary, free speech without the campus meltdown into violence. No National Guard troops were ever on the Michigan campus.
Peter L - 2009
Always thought it’s an awkward looking building, and always in the background when taking pictures with the Cube. Girlfriend at that time worked in the building. She seemed happy to see me when gotten off work, or was it because she’s leaving the building?
John Farley - M.A. 1973, M.U.P. 1975, Ph.D. 1977
I am so glad to see that monstrosity go! My main experience there was being in charge of the GEO picket line there during the strike in the mid-1970s that led to the second graduate-assistant union contract in the country. The mentality of the designers of that building seemed to be that students were an enemy to be kept out at all cost. it probably reflected the viewpoint of the administration at the time.