Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

Cass Gilbert

Noel Night (2011)

39th Annual Noel Night

Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center

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December 3, 2011

The annual Noel Night celebration in Midtown Detroit is one of my favorite holiday events. It is all set within and around some of Detroit’s greatest monumental buildings, all of which were open and free to all for this evening.

There is something for everyone. The precise Detroit All City High School Marching Band marched in sync around the area and performed holiday music in their bright red and blue “Motown” uniforms. The less percise, but equally entertaining Detroit Party Marching Band also showed up – wearing more individually inspired attire. They can best define themselves –  ” Assembling often, spontaneously & when you least expect it…”. Warming things up for the crowd were performances by The Detroit Fire Guild. In the Detroit Institute of Arts famed Rivera Court there was something more traditional, The Rhythm Society Orchestra. Of course, the evening ended with the Salvation Army Band.

This is just a sample of the many museums, churches, galleries, clubs, restaurants, shops and other great establishments which make this evening , and every evening in Detroit special and exciting.

Blog Readers may initially wonder why this event is featured in a blog dedicated to experiencing architecture. All of these performances exist in, around, infront of, through, inbetween and on the steps of some of Detroit’s greatest Architectural treasures. Noel Night is all about Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments, with a holiday theme. My sample shown here is from just two of the over 60 venues participating, you cannot possibly see all of them in one night – but you can try…..next year.

The photos in this post include these two buildings:

The Detroit Public Library (1921) Cass Gilbert, Architect

The Detroit Institute of Arts (1927) Paul Cret, Architect

Allen Memorial Art Museum (1917)

Cass Gilbert, Architect

87 North Main Street, Oberlin OH 44074

on the Campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 2, 2011

After my visit to the Akron Art Museum addition, I decided to swing by Oberlin OH on my roadtrip back home to revisit the Cass Gilbert Museum and its controversial Post -Modern addition by Robert Venturi.

I had visited the museum once before on my trip to Oberlin to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Weltzheimer House back in 2008. I wanted to return to compare the Coop Himmelb(l)au and Robert Venturi  approaches of connecting a “moderm” addition to the back of classical existing museum building. Unlike in Akron, the original Oberlin museum building was designed as a museum, by an internationally known architect at that. Therefore I have this post dedicated to Cass Gilbert’s Museum Building before I show the addition by Robert Venturi in my next post.

The original Museum building was built in 1917. It is a symetrical Beaux-Arts arrangement with Italian Renaissance design elements. The classic sandstone facade has red stone borders creating framed panels. The frieze band has red stone panels with round blue glazed decorative medallions. The color blue was also used extensively in the mosaics in the loggia vaulted ceiling. According to the Cass Gilbert Society,  the architect was not sure about the appropriateness of the blue on the facade. Their webpage quotes him as having “fretted over the contrast , but ultimately decided that time would soften it”. Although the glossy blue glaze of the medallions and the blue glass mosaics do not really “soften” over time, they don’t seem inappropriate. They actually add a little burst of excitement to an otherwise fairly boring but exquisitely detailed facade.