Natural Science Building
The teaching of the sciences had been emphasized from the very beginning in the curriculum of the University of Michigan. This emphasis led, eventually, to a serious lack of space for classrooms and laboratories. In 1913 the legislature appropriated $375,000 for a Natural Sciences Building. The architect was Albert Kahn, of Detroit, and the contractors, Irwin and Leighton, of Philadelphia.
The Natural Sciences Building was completed in 1915. The final cost of the building, including the botanical conservatory on the southeast was $408,000.
The departments housed in the Natural Sciences Building included Botany, Geology, Mineralogy, Zoology, Psychology, the School of Natural Resources, and the Natural Resources Library.
The Natural Sciences Building, located directly across from Hill Auditorium, was built on the site of the original Homeopathic Medical School, which had incorporated the west Professors’ House on North University.
The Natural Science Building was constructed of dark red tapestry brick with trim of light terra-cotta and stone. The only ornamentation was provided by patterns in the brick. The building was almost square in shape, except for one corner which was cut off to leave room for the campus diagonal walk. In this corner was the amphitheater, which seated 482 persons, and above it the Natural Resources Library. The total floor space comprised approximately 155,000 square feet, divided among 270 rooms.
The Natural Sciences Building contained numerous laboratories, all equipped with specially adapted laboratory furniture: acid-proof tables, specially designed sinks, and other features. Most of the laboratories were of three or four units, and the offices and research laboratories of the faculty were of one or two units. Many of the classrooms were equipped for picture projection. On the northeast corner of the second floor there were two connected museums of the Department of Mineralogy and Geology. There was an aquarium room with troughs and tanks, enabling the Department of Zoology to carry on experiments in aquatic life. In 1930 an animal house was erected in the central court.
From either the front (north) or east entrance low broad stairways lead into long, terrazzo-paved corridors extending the length of the building on each side. There were entrances at either side of the southwest part of the building occupied by the auditorium, which in daytime was lighted by skylights and was furnished with complete equipment for the demonstration of experiments. Five tables could be set up singly or in a group and were equipped for electricity, gas, compressed air, and water installations. For many years the Natural Sciences Auditorium was used for special lectures and other University functions.
The building, carefully designed with its essential purpose as a laboratory building in view was a pioneer in University construction since the architect, Albert Kahn, utilized a newly developed system employed successfully in the construction of large factories, the use of regularly placed steel and concrete piers to support the building, making all the rooms exactly the width of the spaces between the piers or multiples of that space. The space between the piers was utilized entirely for windows, thus affording a maximum amount of light.
Natural Sciences Building on the Diag
Ingalls Mall between the Natural Sciences Building and the Chemistry Building
Edward H. Kraus (Syracuse '96, Ph.D. Munich '01), Professor of Minerology, Dean of the Summer Session, Dean of the College of Pharmacy (1923-1933), was appointed Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in August of 1933. The Natural Sciences Building was named in his honor.