Professional Plaza Tower

Professional Plaza Tower
  1. About the Professional Plaza Tower in Detroit
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Professional Plaza Tower is an International Style skyscraper designed by Crane & Gorwic and built between 1964 and 1966 in Detroit, MI.

Professional Plaza Tower is not the only name you might know this building by though. Between 1980 and 2016 it was also known as Hammer and Nail Building.

Its precise street address is 3800 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI. You can also find it on the map here.

The Professional Plaza Tower is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Detroit and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the Professional Plaza Tower was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on March 4th 2016.

The building is also known as 'Hammer and Nail,' referencing two large neon signs, each consisting of three hammers and a nail, installed on the north and south facades of the penthouse in the 1980s by the Carpenter's Union, which occupied the top two floors. The signs were removed in 2016.

The building underwent a major restoration between 2016 and 2017. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Quinn Evans Architects.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago
  1. 2016 to 2017 - Restoration to converted the buidling into residences, with ground floor retail. In addition to the interior renovation, the facade was restored by replacing the glass and exterior masonry, as well as revamping the gardens surrounding the building . The architect in charge was Quinn Evans Architects.

Architect and team

Crane & Gorwic was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Architectural Style

The Professional Plaza Tower 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 Professional Plaza Tower was completed in 1966. By 1966 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 Professional Plaza Tower was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Professional Plaza Tower reaches an architectural height of 154ft (47m). It has a total of 12 floors, which combined offer a total of 99,997 sqf (9,290m2) of usable space.

When it opened its doors to the public in 1966, the Professional Plaza Tower was primarily used as Medical space. That however, is no longer the case, and today it mainly provides Residential space.

About the residences

The Professional Plaza Tower has a total of 72 residential units throughout its 12 floors. If you are interested in learning more about the residences and their availability, you can check the Professional Plaza Tower's website.

154ft (47m)

Materials & Structure

The Professional Plaza Tower uses a framed tube-in-tube structure , with concrete columns and beams.

A framed tube-in-tube structure uses a central core, known as inner tube, which usually holds stairs, lifts and installations, and a perimeter of columns around it, which form the exterior tube. The interior tube is tipically more massive (often made of reinforced concrete), and the exterior tube is "lighter" (made of steel or concrete columns). Both tubes are conencted via horizontal elements which make up the floors and also transmit any horizontal froces from the facade to the core.

The facade of the building is load bearing. This is a direct consequence of the integration of the exterior "tube" into the facade, something which most framed tube-in-tube buildings do in order to liberate the interior space from structural elements and achieve a more flexible interior.

So the facade of the builing is techinically load-bearing, yes, however, in between the load-bearing colums we find a curtain-wall type of facade, which by itself would not be cosnidered load-bearing.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a glass and aluminum curtain wall. The tube-in-tube structure is supported by three slender concrete columns on each side, extending from street level to the top floor, and clad in prefabricated white concrete panels. These columns divide the facades into four bays. The outer bays have four windows each, while the two central bays have eight.

The facade on the ground floor and the tenth floor are set back from the rest of the floors, and on the 10th this setback creates the perfect transition for the crowning of the building, which is also in white concrete.