Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-MI I-94 Roadtrip

Michigan Consolidated Gas Company Building (1962)

Minoru Yamasaki FAIA, Architect

One Woodward Avenue, Detroit MI 48226

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McGregor Memorial Conference Center (1958)

Minoru Yamasaki Architect

On the campus of Wayne State University Detroit MI

Visited September 20 , 2013 as part of the Detroit Design Festival

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One of Yamasaki’s early buildings ( and I think one of his best) is the McGregor Memorial Conference Center. It is located on the campus of Wayne State University, along with 3 other buildings by him designed and built later.

Click here for my photos from an architectural tour of the other Yamasaki buildings.

Guardian Building (1928)

Wirt C. Rowland, Architect

500 Griswold Detroit MI

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While on my road trips I have my cameras with me at all times to capture the buildings I have made the pilgrimage to experience. While home in Detroit, I go past some of America’s great architectural treasures nearly every day. I have been in each of them countless times over the years and almost take them for granted. I do take visitors through them to show them off, but rarely do I think to bring my own camera.

Yesterday I was downtown and walked into the Guardian Building to be inspired. Of course my “big” camera was back home, but I took out my phone and tried to capture the experience with the camera in my phone. Consider these as just snapshots of this amazing colorful “Art Deco Mayan Revival” space. Hopefully this will be enough to tempt you to experience this for yourself the next time you are in Detroit. It is well worth the trip.

Check back for my description and comments on the building, but in the mean time enjoy the photographs.

Click here to view the Guardian Building’s website

Dymaxion House (1945)

R. Buckminster Fuller,  Architect

On display within the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn MI

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Visited September 2, 2013

The Dymaxion House (from the words Dynamic Maximum Tension) uses a central mast set on a single foundation in the middle of the structure. The floor and wall system then is suspended from this mast with tension cables. This was to be Buckminster Fuller’s mass-produced affordable solution for the housing shortage after the war. What was brilliant about his solution was that the Dymaxion House uses aircraft like parts and assembly techniques. This was to keep the aircraft factories open and the skilled workers employed after most military aircraft production ended after the war.

Two prototypes of the “Dymaxion Dwelling Machine” were manufactured in Wichita, Kansas by the Beech Aircraft company before Fuller Houses Inc. went out of business due to disagreements among the associates (or so the story goes). Both prototypes (or the parts from them) were purchased by a family in Kansas, and were assembled as one Dymaxion structure as an addition to their existing house.

The family donated the Dymaxion House to Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, where the parts were cataloged, cleaned, and restored.  The house was ultimately assembled as a featured display in the Museum. Portions of the structure are visible in cut-a-way sections of the display so the unique structural design are visible. Visitors can walk through the house and see first hand the innovative bathroom, closet, kitchen and ventilation systems employed.

I wish it could have been assembled outdoors in the Village on a grass lawn with the original porches. Although I understand that is has to be in the museum so that it can be preserved, the ramps and fencing for the visitors que to enter and exit the display hug the building closely. You do not get the architect’s vision of this spaceage looking house hovering over the lawn supported only by the center mast.

Palmer House – Interiors (1950)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

See my post “Palmer House – Exterior” for information on the property.

The interior dramatically changes personality as the light changes in the space. From morning light, afternoon light, evening light and then artificial light the spaces are transformed as time goes by. When the trees, lawn and natural gardens are in sunlight, the interiors takes a back seat as the windows and walls seemingly disappear and the beautiful natural hillside is the star. In the evening after the sun sets, the glass appears as black panels focusing attention inward to the interior. The integrated indirect lighting transforms the oil-finished cypress clad ceiling of the living room into a warm canopy focusing on the fireplace. The polished Cherokee red concrete floors subtly reflect the light from above. Wright’s Origami Chairs ( which are quite comfortable ) are placed around the living room focused on the fireplace. Built into a wall by the kitchen is the dining table surrounded by dining chairs ( which are not comfortable).

All of the interior walls come together at 60 or 120 degree angles, as the floor plan is organized on an equilateral triangle grid. This grid is implemented in the furniture as well, even the beds have 60 and 120 degree corners.

Palmer House – Exterior (1950) – revisited

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

Look at my first Palmer House post from two years ago for a description of the building.

The Palmer House has been purchased from the Palmer family estate, and is now available for overnight rentals (when the new owner is not in town). The purchase agreement comes with a very strict preservation agreement. Since it was purchased from the original owner’s estate, and the preservation agreement is in effect, this is an incredible opportunity to “live” in an original Frank Lloyd Wright house. The experience is pure Wright, without any unfortunate “updates” that mar many Wright properties that have gone through multiple ownership changes over the years.

Although recuperating from a back injury and not prepared with my tripod, I could not pass up an invitation from some amazing friends to spend the night. I have documented the house in 3 separate posts showing the exterior, the interior and the tea house on the property.

Palmer House – Tea House (1964)

John Howe, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

After visiting Japan, the Palmer’s planned a teahouse on their property sited down the hill from the main house. John Howe, the on-site Taliesin representative during construction of the main house, was the architect (Wright had passed away 5 years earlier).

The tea house uses the same materials and equilateral triangle grid as the main house. It includes a recessed sitting area and table for tea drinking, a fireplace, bed, and small kitchen and bathroom.