Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

Coleman A Young Municipal Center
  1. About the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center is an International Style skyscraper designed in 1947 by Harley, Ellington and Day and built between 1951 and 1954 in Detroit, MI.

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center is not the only name you might know this building by though. The building is, or has also been known as City-County Building.

Its precise street address is 2 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI. You can also find it on the map here.

The Coleman Center consists of two towers:

  • One, 19 floors and 97m high, housing the court.s
  • The other, 14 floors and 60m high, occupied by the executive and legislative offices of the city of Detroit

Even though both towers can be perceived as separate entities, they are connected to one another on every single floor they share, effectively turning them into one single building.

The building has been restored 2 times over the years to ensure its conservation and adaptation to the pass of time. The main restoration works happened in 1985 and 2013.

Building's timeline

Design completed
Construction begins
Construction completed
years ago
  1. 1985 - The building's roof was replaced for the first time and covered with lightweight 30.5cm pavers .
  2. 2013 - The damaged pavers on the roof were removed, the joints and membrane were repaired with a reflective layer, the insulation was reinforced, and the removed pavers were replaced with green sedum modules, creating a vibrant habitat for bee colonies and reaffirming the commitment to sustainability.

Architect and team

Harley, Ellington and Day was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Harley, Ellington and Day was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline involving many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center a reality:

  • Bryant and Detwiler Company as the Main Contractor
  • Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority as the Main Developer
  • Marshall M. Fredericks as the collaborating Artist

Architectural Style

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center was completed in 1954. By 1954 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center reaches an architectural height of 318ft (97m). It has a total of 21 floors, 19 above ground and 2 basements, which combined offer a total of 779,995 sqf (72,464m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1954, the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center has mainly been used as Governmental space.

318ft (97m)
2 basements

Materials & Structure

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center uses a frame structure made of columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade of the building however, is load bearing. This doesn't imply that it is a traditional load-bearing wall. Rather, it means that the structure's exterior pillars have been pushed to the very edges, becoming integrated with the facade, and therefore, technically, a part of it.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features white Vermont marble from street level to the top of the facade. The structural columns integrated into the facade are emphasized to create rhythm and a sense of verticality.

This sense of verticality is pushed even further on the taller tower, where the white marble spandrels are replaced by dark ones, which contrast with the white color of the columns. As a result, the taller tower has a stripped pattern facade, while the lower one is perceived more as a grid.

The western facade of the Court Tower is completely blind, with no windows. In front of it stands a 13-meter-high monument, consisting of a curved marble wall with several inscriptions and a sculpture of a man representing the balance in justice.

Other materials found at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center include, Loredo Chiaro marble, used in first and 13th floors offices corridors, and italian travertine, found in differents walls.