Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

Posts tagged “AIA Gold Medal

Fort Wayne Fine Arts Center (1973)

Louis I. Kahn Architect

Now the Arts United Center, 303 E. Main Street Fort Wayne IN

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Visited October 27 2013

Designed in 1961-64

Architect Louis I. Kahn designed a theater in Fort Wayne Indiana…who knew?

Famous for the Salk Institute in La Jolla, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and the Parliament of Bangladesh in Dhaka, he actually built relatively few buildings so Fort Wayne is in excellent company. He was well known as the design critic at Yale School of Architecture and as Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He received the AIA’s Gold Medal.

The exterior of the building is a crisp, simple box constructed of dark brick.  The front facade has two very shallow arched keyhole windows linked with a concrete form acting as a heavy lintel over the entry doors.

The theater in Fort Wayne will require another trip, as it was closed on a late sunday afternoon. Kahn’s interiors are known for their “poetic sensibilities” and a walk through the lobby and auditorium I am sure will be inspirational.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s  Architecture in Context  –  Louis Kahn in the Midwest issue focusing on the Fort Wayne Theater.

Link to the Arts United Center website

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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.


Irwin Union Bank (1954)

Eero Saarinen Architect

500 Washington Street Columbus IN

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken March 16 2012

As luck would have it ( although I say this with a sad heart ) the day I visited the Irwin Union Bank and walked in the front door…was the last day that this building was open to the public. At least as a bank. All of the employees were packing up their desks, and carting off their belongings. I was able to take lots of interior photographs, probably the last opportunity in a long time. I asked several of the bank employees what they were going to do with the building. They all hedged a little, and I got the feeling they have been asked that question a hundred times and were uncomfortable because they did not have an answer. The consensus was that it may become a museum sometime in the future…a hopeful result but an unconvincing delivery.

Even if it does open as a “museum” it will not have the same feeling as being what it was designed as…a bank. When I was there, even on the last day, people were coming in and cashing their checks, and doing their banking, just as they did the first day the bank opened in 1954.

The building is an interesting low glass box with a thin white roof plane. The roof plane has 9 domes projecting out above the roof in a 3×3 grid. These domes are actually the light fixtures for the bank interior – reflectors for the suspended uplights flooding the bank with warm light. The only walls that go to the ceiling are the perimeter glass walls. The interior “walls” stop short of the ceiling. They actually look like part of the file cabinet system, with the conference room/private offices enclosed with the cabinets.  This keeps the overall ceiling plane pure and uninterrupted.

Still worth a visit….the exterior walls are all glass so you can still peek in.


First Christian Church (1943)

Eliel Saarinen Architect

531 Fifth Street, Columbus IN

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken March 15 & 16 2012

For those familiar with the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, MI, elements of this building should feel “familiar”. Eliel Saarinen the architect lived at Cranbrook. He designed many buildings at Cranbrook with similar brick detailing, and interesting asymetrical placements. The First Christian Church shows an interesting mix of contemporary, Art & Crafts and  even a feeling of the old cloister and gothic places of worship skillfully integrated. His wife Loja, an acomplished textile artist, created the tapestry “Sermon on the Mount” hanging on the side wall of the alter. And keeping it in the family, the hanging light fixtures were designed by his son Eero, who also designed the St. Louis Arch, the TWA terminal at JFK, and the North Christian Church in Columbus Indiana.


Cleo Rogers Memorial Library (1969)

I.M. Pei, Architect

536 Fifth Street, Columbus IN 47201

Aerial View and Directions

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Photos taken March 16, 2012

It is not every midwestern city of 45,000 that has a public library designed by I. M. Pei, and this one has a Henry Moore sculpture placed out front to boot. The citizens should feel lucky to have such a pair right downtown.