Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-MI-Ann Arbor

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.

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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.


“The Big House” Michigan Stadium (1927)

Bernard Green (UM Eng.  1891) of Osborn Engineering,  Chief Architect

1201 South Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15, 2012 (Michigan 63, Massachusetts 13) and September 17, 2011 (Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 3)

I am including this post of The Big House not because it is a particularily exceptional building aesthetically, or because it is worth going out of your way to view it on an average day. I am posting this because Michigan Stadium is the largest college stadium in the nation ( 109,901 official capacity, largest crowd has been 114,804 in 2011), and has been part of a grand tradition in Ann Arbor since it was built 1927. The Stadium is usually locked up 358 days a year, and the field and seats are mostly below grade and not visible from outside the fence. But if you are one of the lucky 110,000 or so on each of the 7 days it is open for a home game annually, you will experience an event unlike any other in college football. Here the building is not the star, the football game is, and this building facilitates the event in a “big” way.

I am also posting the photos because I have been extremely lucky to have been invited to a few games in one of the suites which were added in a recent renovation. I have always wondered what the suites were like inside, so I thought I would snap a few photos to share them with those interested. Although the focus is clearly on the game, the suites are very comfortable, and you never know who you may run into, including a former coach…

After the game we went to Lena’s for dinner.

History of the Stadium


Burton Memorial Tower (1936)

Albert Kahn, Architect

The University of Michigan Campus

230 South Ingalls Street  Ann Arbor, MI

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken November 4 and 5, 2011

The Art Deco and Art Moderne inspired tower is a counterpoint to the massive Hill Auditorium next door. Growing up in Ann Arbor, the Burton Tower was always there with its simple clock face visible above the State Theater looking down Liberty Street. From some angles the copper roof is visible and forms a proper cap on the tower. From closer up the sloped roof is not visible and the limestone facade with its simple Art Deco detailing and vertical trim forms the sillouette against the sky. The proportions and detailing just seem perfect…with the exception of the windows on the office floors. For some reason the punched double-hung windows just seem to be out of place and scale to me – more appropriate to a colonial house than an Art Deco tower. That being said, this is still one of my favorite structures on the UofM Campus.

Burton Memorial Tower houses the Charles Baird Carillon, which is a “Grand Carillon” . Some quick internet research reveals that a grand carillon includes a bourdon bell which weighs at least six tons, and can sound a low ‘G’ – who knew? In the summer you can enjoy the carillon concerts while lounging on the lawn below.

Some historical photos showing the construction

Bentley Historical Library Information Page on Tower


Hill Auditorium (1913)

Albert Kahn, Architect

University of Michigan

825 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken November 4, 2011

The Hill Auditorium is a 3,500 seat venue designed by Albert Kahn  (originally it seated 4,100, but a 2004 renovation eliminated some seating). The most striking design elements are the grand light limestone columns and frame that contains the entry doors and windows above. Especially at night when you are entering the building for a performance, the light colored columns are prominent, and you do not notice the dark brickwork of the rest of the facade. This brickwork is actually quite elaborate and includes some beautiful decorative tiles (possibly Pewabic Tile, but I have not confirmed that). I have not attended any performances inside the auditorium since the renovation in 2004, but I understand that it was beautifully done…but where did all those seats go?


Domino’s Farms Prairie House (1984-98)

Gunnar Birkerts, Architect

24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive  Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken November 4 and 5, 2011

To understand the Domino’s Farms building, and what is unique and interesting about it, you must click the link to the Aerial View and Map. It is long, nearly a kilometer long. It is long, twice as long as the Empire State Building is tall. It is long, and is covered by the world’s largest copper covered roof. It is long, and….well it is really long.

Designed by Gunnar Birkerts, it is a series of building blocks with hipped roofs organized on a series of 7 “sliding” tracks. The lobby entrances are created by gaps in the building blocks on the outermost tracks. The windows are continuous horizontal bands just under the deep overhangs. It is difficult to capture the building in photos (not to make excuses, but…) The best view of the building is from the expressway interchange on the west side of the complex.

Domino’s Farms was built as the headquarters for the Domino’s Pizza empire by it’s founder Thomas S. Monaghan, a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast. Monaghan actually amassed an impressive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright artifacts, memorabilia, art glass windows, furniture, Wright’s Cherokee red Lincoln Zepher, and even a couple Frank Lloyd Wright houses, before he decided that he should focus his energy and vast fortune on his religious faith.

Although well detailed and constructed, there isn’t a particularilly groundbreaking feature, memorable detail, or exciting approach to the building at ground level, but the building is impresive and memorable due to one fact – it is really, really long…