Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-MI-Detroit Area

The Belt – Detroit MI (2015)

Public Alley behind the “Z” Parking Garage.

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This project definitely falls into the Creative Built Environment category. A public alley has been transformed into a public art gallery – while still functioning as a public alley. Bedrock Real Estate, in conjunction with the Library Street Collective in Detroit are behind this transformation. They have turned this into an inviting walkway with commissioned artwork installed along the way. Recently Shepard Fairey installed several installations while in town. One of his murals will become the background for a new open air bar that will be in an alcove along the alley. Unusual benches provide spaces to sit. Another thinking-outside-the-box project transforming downtown Detroit. I am looking forward to future additions.


Turkel House and Garden (1955)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

2760 West Seven Mile Road, Detroit MI 48221

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The current owners have rescued the Dorothy Turkel House from near disintegration and oblivion.

I toured the house when it was for sale several years ago and I wanted to cry. It had been abandoned with the heat turned off in the middle of a Michigan winter. The toilets literally were cracked in half due to the water inside freezing. The water covered the floor and froze…creating mini ice rinks in the bathrooms. There were large cracks in the exterior walls, some of the wood paneling had water damage…I have to stop – as the memory of that day is too painful. I know, a little melodramatic, but it truly was sad. It was hard to imagine that anyone could actually rescue this treasure. A miracle happened. The current owners have slowly, purposefully, creatively and passionately rescued and restored this house. In fact with their garden ( dare I say ) they have made it better than it has ever been.

Originally the narrow Cherokee red concrete terrace and steps lead down to a grass lawn. Now the lawn has been replaced with an extension of the Cherokee red terrace. Along one side is a narrow pool with three bubbling fountains. Surrounding this extended terrace are multiple garden compositions, each with a unique personality, yet all work together. Interspersed are glass sculptures, silver balls-on-a-stick (my favorite) and a sculpture court with large wire spheres.

Inside, the two-story Music Room has been beautifully restored. The wood paneling looks great, and the owner’s art collection accents the space perfectly. I am happy to report that the toilets have been replaced and the bathroom floors are no longer covered with ice ( even after the last winter we had here in Detroit).

This is one of the most amazing comeback stories I have experienced – in architecture anyway.



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.

Detroit Auto Show – The Displays – (2012)

The North American International Auto Show

Cobo Hall, Detroit MI

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Visited January 17, 2012

Not only do the auto companies invest in their product development, but they also have inspired designers creating dramatic auto show displays. These displays are elaborate concoctions – part architecture, part technology, and all temporary – constructed in a convention hall for a two week run. They are meant to reinforce the brand image, be a backdrop or pedestal for the cars, and above all draw people in. Here is a sample of the displays at this years North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Come next year!  There is a week long press-only preview, a Black-Tie Charity Preview on Friday night, and then it is open to the public Saturday morning through the following weekend. While in Detroit check out the other more permanent architectural treasures here. Click the “MI-Detroit” link in the column on the right and you will see some great options.

For more information, here is the official website.