Volume 33, Number 3, March 1998


One Man’s Vision: Guardian’s World Headquarters

by Regina R. Johnson

William Davidson had some distinct ideas in mind when he first embarked upon building the new world headquarters for Guardian Industries Corp. in 1993.

The company had outgrown its former building, a converted warehouse in Northville, MI. The president and CEO of one of the world’s largest glassmaking companies, philanthropist and owner of a big chunk of the Detroit Pistons basketball team, Davidson envisioned a contemporary design that emphasized glass in all of its sparkling, shiny splendor. He told the architect, Hobbs + Black Associates Inc. of Ann Arbor, MI, that he wanted a dynamic building made with top-quality materials and state-of-the-art technology—at a reasonable price.

The result of Davidson’s vision is a building befitting the world-class glassmaker. Set in a wooded, Auburn Hills lot complete with a small pond, deer and geese who occasionally hold up local traffic, the 100,000-square-foot headquarters is designed to make the most of form and function. While the building provides a pleasant work environment for employees, it maximizes the use of technology to efficiently serve as the communications center for the company’s global operations.

In designing the building, Guardian sought to create an "open" work environment to encourage communication and interaction among the 200 employees throughout the building. As such, different departments share conference rooms and communications facilities. An attractive central atrium accented by floor-to-ceiling curtainwall—ideal for receptions and other large gatherings—is the hub of the four large wings, with a cafeteria located off the atrium on the lower level. The pride of the building, the atrium showcases Macchia: Forest of Color, a colorful blown-glass installation by renowned artist Dale Chihuly.

"(The facilities) really help people enjoy their work environment," notes Richard Alonzo, vice president of engineering.

The headquarters also serves as a home for the company’s employer health and wellness program, called HealthGuard. Through this program, Guardian encourages its 14,000 employees worldwide and their families to live healthier lifestyles by offering seminars, workshops and on-site programs that address health and wellness issues. The company’s headquarters also includes fitness facilities and an aerobics room where classes are conducted five days a week.

Begun in fall 1993, the headquarters took more than a year to complete, with move-in by employees in January 1995. The project, built in conjunction with the Detroit Pistons training facility, required the construction of roads for both buildings, wetlands protection and other environmental concerns. The exterior of the building is a showcase for glass manufactured at the company’s plant in Corsicana, TX. It uses Performance Plus® high-performance glass with two coatings: one with a bluish-silver or gray color to reflect sunlight and the other a Low-E coating to keep in the heat. The interior of the building contains glass manufactured at the company’s plants in Lewistown, PA, and Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

Despite including advanced audio-visual equipment, video conferencing facilities, a security system and a quality HVAC system, Alonzo says the building didn’t cost much more than a residential home when calculated by the square foot.

Davidson’s latest vision as embodied in Guardian’s headquarters building is a reminder that sometimes you can have it all.


Regina R. Johnson is the managing editor of USGlass magazine.


© Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.