Tennessee Modernism: Levi’s Manufacturing Facility by Howard Friedman

Structure: Levi Strauss & Company, Manufacturing and Administration Facility
Location: Powell, Tennessee
Architect: Howard A. Friedman
Date: 1977
Story: Levi’s was looking for architectural modernity. The famous clothier had made a name for itself designing jeans, now it wanted to take its design and build facilities which reflected the impact they were making in the world.

A woman making jeans in a Levi Strauss factory circa 1950

Since Levi’s was headquartered in San Francisco, they began their search for modernity by commissioning a San Francisco based architect named Howard A. Friedman. A graduate of the UC Berkley’s architecture school, Friedman’s initial task was to design + revamp Levi’s San Francisco factory on Valencia (below).

The old Levi Strauss factory in San Francisco still stands, albeit with an ugly parking lot in front

Once they were finished with their HQ revamp, Levi’s was ready for modernity. Working with Friedman again, the jean maker constructed modern facilities throughout the southern portion of the United States. His design for a HQ + computer building in Little Rock, Arkansas (below) is a sight to behold.

Although the Little Rock Levi’s plant closed in 2006, the structure itself seems to still be hanging around.

And now for the pièce de résistance. In Powell, Tennessee, Friedman designed a manufacturing and administration facility for Levi’s that sported a very Miesian look and feel.

Judging by this second photo, the main building seems to have sported a large LED screen across the front.

In 1991, the facility was purchased by The Crown College and most of it was remodeled. Today it sports everyone’s favorite architectural style: collegiate gothic 😐

However, the small building (which you can see on the right hand side of the first black and white photo above) still stands. It somehow miraculously survived the collegiate gothic-pocalypse of Crown College’s takeover and it’s actually in pretty great shape.