Reynolds Sales Office

The Detroit area has one of the best collections of midcentury modern buildings in the country, owing largely in part to the automobile and other industries in the 1940’s and 50’s. Prominent architects were lured to the city to design the headquarters of many prominent companies. One of these was Minoru Yamasaki, who moved to Detroit to become the lead architect for the firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls.

Yamasaki would become known for the soaring World Trade Center in New York City, but before that he left his mark in Detroit. The campus of Wayne State University features several of his designs, as well as corporate buildings throughout the city and its suburbs.

In 1955 the Reynolds Metal Company sought out Yamasaki, Leinweber & Associates to design a regional sales office. Reynolds was probably best known for its aluminum foil cooking products but had become a major supplier of aluminum for the automobile industry, which was centered in Detroit. “Reynolds intended the building to be a showpiece, demonstrating architectural aluminum’s beauty, versatility, and economy.” Writes Dale Allen Gyure in his book about Minoru Yamasaki. “In this sense the Reynolds Sales Office was among the first generation of product buildings - highly visible structures, usually corporate headquarters, built to demonstrate the attractiveness and efficacy of a company’s product.”

The Reynolds Sales Office was laid out in a hollow rectangle three stories high, with offices arranged along the outer edge of a vast skylight. The exterior was wrapped in a screen of gold rings of anodized aluminum. Yamasaki estimated that the rings would cut the need for air conditioning in half. As with other Yamasaki designs, the building was surrounded by a reflecting pool.

Reynolds used the building until around 1984, when it was sold to the Vic Tanny chain of gyms. Under Vic Tanny the building was extensively remodeled, and not for the better. The reflecting pools around the exterior were filled and walled in, extending the outer edge of the building to the supports. The ground floor reception area was roofed off and replaced with a swimming pool and locker rooms. A running track was installed on the upper floor, as well as a boxing ring. The location was later used as a Bally’s Total Fitness and LA Fitness before closing in 2012 or 2013.