↑ top

Modernism at Risk / Michigan Matters

Exhibit Hours:
March 16–April 20, 2011
Thursday–Sunday, Noon–6 p.m.
The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Modernism at Risk / Michigan Matters was organized by University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and World Monuments Fund (WMF).

The Modernism at Risk initiative is a program created by WMF with founding sponsor Knoll in 2006 to address the distinct threats facing great works of modern architecture around the world. This program focuses on advocacy, conservation, and public education. Michigan Matters, the Taubman College response to the WMF initiative, brings to light the significant modern architectural resources of Michigan.

The WMF exhibit consists of large-scale photographs by Andrew Moore, and interpretative panels with five case studies that design practitioners and students, armed with their knowledge of 20th-century architecture and their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and supported by organizations like the World Monuments Fund, are helping devise multifaceted solutions – including advocacy efforts, technical plans, and otherwise – that address the distinct challenges to preserving modern architecture. The five buildings highlighted are:

  • 1930 - ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau, Germany, by Meyer and Witter
  • 1939 - A. Conger Goodyear House in Old Westbury, New York by Edward Durell Stone
  • 1954 - Grosse Pointe Public Library in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan by Marcel Breuer
  • 1958 - Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida by Paul Rudolph
  • 1972 - Kent Memorial Library in Suffield, Connecticut by Warren Platner

The Michigan Matters exhibit aims to bring to light the various intact resources associated with the modern architectural movement in Michigan, which date from as early as 1922. The exhibition calls attention to the responsibility we share as a community in the future conservation of our more recent heritage. Exhibition materials include reproductions of design drawings for the following projects:

  • 1922 - Ford Glass Plant by Albert Kahn Associates
  • 1928 - 1940 - Saarinen House and Cranbrook Art Museum by Eliel Saarinen
  • 1958 - Lafayette Park Low-Rise Buildings and Pavilion Apartments by Mies van der Rohe
  • 1959 - Great Lakes Region Reynolds Headquarters by Minoru Yamasaki
  • 1963 - St. Francis de Sales Church by Marcel Breuer

Corresponding photographs of each project (provided by Albert Kahn Associates, Ford Archives, Cranbrook Archives, Balthazar Korab Studio, photographer Justin Maconochie and the Bentley Historical Library) illustrate each building at varying time periods. Exhibition of this vital body of work was made possible through cooperation from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Archives of Michigan, and the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Library.

The Active Archive

The archives of architecture at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, afford at least a partial victory over modernism at risk. Blueprints, "Magic Marker" on tracing paper, 35 mm slides, models of glue and cardboard: many modern media have defied the odds of survival by the time they reach the repository. The materiality that fueled the inspiration of William Muschenheim's color studies – house paint on prints, for example – serves notice to the archivist that "modern is as modern does" from the creative moment to construction. The era was open to new means and methods as much at the drawing board as at the building site. Not all of these lend themselves to permanence although some media do transition smoothly from the architect to the archives. Albert Kahn's thousands of drawings in ink on linen of modern industry, commerce, and campus came to the archives straight off a century of stick sets from the firm's headquarters in Detroit. The impressive works in pencil on paper – equal parts artistry and information – of Michigan's Tivadar Balogh, George B. Brigham, Robert C. Metcalf, David W. Osler, and Walter Sanders have through their care and our good fortune arrived at the archives in excellent condition. The archives win what the architect first curated.

Nancy Bartlett, Archivist
Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan


The Photographer as Documentalist

Balthazar Korab was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1926 and began his studies in architecture at the Budapest Polytechnic shortly after the end of the Second World War. He fled his home country in 1949 and made his way to Paris where he completed his architecture education at the École des Beaux Arts in 1955. During his time as a student he gained valuable experience working for renowned architects such as the Swiss-born, Parisian architect Le Corbusier and the Swedish firm Backström & Renius. Following the completion of his studies, Korab moved to the United States and was hired by Eero Saarinen & Associates where he quickly became the in-house photographer of choice during one of the most energetic and innovative periods in the firm's prolific history.

Due largely to the success of his published images from the Saarinen office, Korab received numerous commissions by other architects and opened an independent photography studio in 1958. Though many of his commissions sent him beyond the borders of the United States, his fifty years of professional practice are punctuated by the close collaborations he forged with designers of mid-century Modern architecture in Michigan. As demonstrated by the range of images presented in this exhibition, Korab's photography provides us with a vast repository of source material essential for substantiating and contextualizing the critical role of Michigan architecture in the historical arc of Modern design. And now, with many exemplary works of Modern architecture under increased scrutiny, Korab's photography claims an even greater significance in helping to ensure the accurate restoration, preservation and maintenance of Michigan's Modern architectural heritage.

John Comazzi, Assistant Professor of Architecture
University of Minnesota


Special thanks are due to the following individuals for their efforts in making this exhibition possible:

Tom Affeldt, Nancy Bartlett, Don Bauman, Jason Berryhill, Francis X. Blouin Jr., David Bright, Lance Burghardt, Branden Clements, John Comazzi, Brian Conway, Marsha Cusic, Nancy Deromedi, Melissa Dittmer, Mary Anne Drew, Leslie Edwards, Christiane Evaskis, Sue Farrrow, Pauline Fletner, Tom Green, Gary Greene, Teresa Harris, Mark Harvey, Marty Hilton III, Amy Horvath, Alex Jacque, Karen Jania, Balthazar Korab, Christian Korab, Monica Korab, Reed Kroloff, Amber LaCroix, Kayla Lim, Justin Maconochie, Deniz McGee, Linda Mills, Liz Momblanco, Marguerite Moran, Malgosia Myc, Henry Ng, Sandra Patton, Sean M. Quimby, Noah Resnik, Mark Robbins, Joe Schillmoeller, Alicia Spitznagel, Robbie Terman, Wesley Steele, Christian and Michele Unverzagt, Whitney Warren, and Dean Weber.

Special thanks are also given to Monica Ponce de Leon, Dean and Eliel Saarinen Collegiate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning, for her vision to promote our informed stewardship of the built environment.

Gregory Saldaña, Curator
Taubman College
Ann Arbor, March 2011

Ford Glass Plant 1922 1

Albert Kahn Architect

Completed in 1925, the Glass Plant, which was designed by Albert Kahn and featured butterfly roofs and clerestory monitors, was considered a landmark in industrial architecture. The 240-by- 760-foot structure was planned, however, so that it could be easily expanded and altered to meet the demands of constantly changing technology. As a result, the present 320-by-2,600- foot edifice bears little resemblance to Kahn's original design. Situated west of the Dearborn Assembly Plant, the Glass Plant is the scene of an almost completely automatic glass-making operation. Using the float process, the plant produces 13.41 miles or 500 tons of glass each working day.

The Ford River Rouge Complex, one of the industrial wonders of the world and the only industrial area encompassing all the basic steps in automobile manufacturing, is situated west of Detroit in the city of Dearborn. Designed largely by noted industrial architect Albert Kahn and constructed for the most part between 1917 and 1927, the Rouge epitomizes Henry Ford's commitment to improved production methods and his dream of nonstop flow from raw material to assembled automobile. Because the complex was envisioned as constantly changing to take advantage of improved techniques, buildings were designed so that they could be easily modified. As a result, almost all structures have undergone some degree of alteration over the years, but a number of buildings like the Dearborn Assembly Plant, the Dearborn Iron Foundry, and Power House still exhibit much of their original architectural vitality. Also, a number of additional buildings have been constructed in the complex over the years.

The Rouge was admired by Moholy-Nagy of the Bauhaus, among others, and he included a photograph of it, without mentioning the architect, in his Von Material zu Architektur of 1929. In Vers une Architecture Le Corbusier also used photographs of American factory buildings, and Gropius expressed his admiration for "the work halls of the North American Industrial Trusts [which appealed to him because of] their overwhelming monumental power"

Eliel Saarinen 2

Cranbrook is one of the finest examples of American twentieth-century architecture and landscape design in Michigan. The design of the complex represents the artistic philosophy of George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth, of Detroit's prominent Detroit News editorial families combining artistic collaboration, hand craftsmanship, and functionalism.

Cranbrook is a cultural, educational and religious complex composed of six autonomous institutions with numerous outbuildings and gardens located on a 300 acre campus. The complex includes Cranbrook House (Saarinen House), Meeting House, Christ Church, Cranbrook School for Boys, Cranbrook Academy of Art (Cranbrook Art Museum), Kingswood School for Girls, and the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Most buildings reflect English collegiate inspiration with stunning Gothic and Tudor elements, some elegant Modernistic structures, and Arts and Crafts interiors. Exquisite landscape architecture complements the structures and unites the campus into a showcase of early twentieth century architectural styles.

Saarinen House 1928

Saarinen began designing his house at Cranbrook in 1928,and he and Loja moved into their completed home in fall 1930. It was built concurrently with the adjoining house where sculptor Carl Milles lived, and the cost to build both was $140,000 – considerably more than the typical cost of $6,250 for a Detroit-area four-bedroom house of brick and stone. The Saarinens' daughter Pipsan never lived in the house, as she had married architect J. Robert F. Swanson in 1926 and they resided elsewhere in Bloomfield Hills. The Saarinens' son Eero, however, had a designated bedroom where he stayed when on break from studying at Yale University (1931- 1934; B.F.A., 1934). Eero's bedroom became a guest room when he married in 1939. After Eliel died in 1950 and Loja moved out in 1951, subsequent presidents of Cranbrook Academy of Art lived in the house and made many changes. Finally, in 1977, Roy Slade became President of the Academy and initiated a process of restoration. The full restoration took place between 1988 and 1994, under the direction of Art Museum Curator and current Director Gregory Wittkopp, and returned the house to its appearance in the mid-1930s after the Saarinens had added the finishing touches.

Cranbrook Art Museum (Academy of Art) 1940

Cranbrook Academy of Art, known as the cradle of American modernism, continues to have a significant impact on the world of art, architecture, and design completely disproportionate to its size. Outstanding artists, architects and designers – the Saarinens, Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Jack Lenor Larsen, Donald Lipski, Duane Hanson and Hani Rashid, to name only a few - have been a part of Cranbrook's community of artists. Lasting friendships formed at the Academy lead to future professional collaboration. Cranbrook alumni have an international influence through their individual artistic practices and teaching professions.

Pavilion Apartments and Low Rise Buildings 1956-1958 3

Mies van der Rohe Architect

The Mies van der Rohe Residential District is significant because of its exceptional importance in the history of modern architecture and community planning and development. Its 26 buildings- -the only ones Mies van der Rohe ever designed in Michigan and the largest collection of his buildings in the world--are excellent examples of the methods, materials, and ideas that this world-renowned master architect used in his later works. The district's townhouse complex is unique among his works, for it is the only group of row houses ever built to his specifications. In the area of community planning and development, the district has the distinction of being part of an early effort at urban renewal that actually succeeded. Built on the site of a former slum, it was the outcome of a city plan to counter the flight of middle- and upper-income families to the suburbs by creating a community that would attract people of diverse backgrounds. That it is today an attractive, well-maintained neighborhood more racially mixed than when it was built is especially remarkable in view of the social and economic problems Detroit has experienced since the 1960s. The man-made aspects of the district- its architecture, layout, and landscape design- -have been key ingredients in this outcome. As David Spaeth observed in his 1985 biography of Mies, "While the history of urban renewal in the United States is littered with failures, Lafayette Park is one of the successes; one dehumanizing urban environment was not replaced with another."

St. Francis de Sales Church 1964 4

Marcel Breuer Architect

Saint Francis de Sales Church, located in Muskegon, Michigan, was designed by Marcel Breuer and his associate, Herbert Beckhard, in 1964. The church was designed about the same time he designed the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Construction was finished in 1966, and the first mass held on December 18, 1966.

The trapezoidal-shaped front wall of the church acts as a "banner" or signage with a large concrete cross on it similar to the way the Whitney Museum's large concrete façade serves as a sign for the museum. Above this is the bell tower with three large bells protruding over the front wall. The side walls are double curved in parabolic sections with the back wall splaying towards the top. Breuer used the latest technology of the time, reinforced concrete, to create a continuous curved line, which was previously impossible because of the lack of technology. The total cost of the building was $1 million. Made from 14,000 tons of steel and concrete, the building was constructed at a cost of over $1 million.

The sanctuary is windowless except for a few skylights highlighting the seating areas. Originally a skylight designed and crafted in France by the Roemer-Millard studio was in the niche of the sanctuary but was moved to the new Marian Chapel in 1989. This stained glass window was awarded a gold medal by the American Institute of Architects. The entrance to the sanctuary is located under a freestanding balcony that creates a very low ceiling. Breuer created the experience of walking from this squat entrance into the lofty nave to evoke a feeling of the awe-inspiring power of God and to instill a sense of humility in the worshippers. The height in comparison to the length of the nave makes the priest appear to be much closer to the worshippers than they really are.

On either side of the entrance are stained-glass windows designed by Roemer-Millard studios. One is of a red-orange hue while the other is of a blue-green. The brick floor of the nave slopes in a theater-like fashion with the altar at front on display. Above the altar is a concrete canopy which is lit from below. Behind the altar are twelve concrete columns representing the twelve apostles. As one moves about the room the columns appear to move signifying the dynamic people of God. Exposed concrete walls made from wooden forms suggest ties to the traditional methods of construction of the gothic cathedrals of Europe. In front of the altar the Stations of the Cross are embedded in the floor. The altar itself is made of a single piece of white granite weighing eight tons.

Breuer's design for Saint Frances de Sales Church, along with his designs for another Catholic church in Collegeville, Minnesota, around the same time, revolutionized religious architecture. Breuer subscribed to Viennese architect Adolf Loos' conviction that "lack of ornamentation was a sign of spiritual strength." Breuer used the design of the church to strengthen this statement. When the church was built, no statues, decorations or ornamentations were placed in the church. Instead the design of the structure – spatial arrangements, lighting and use of materials – were to bring a worshipper closer to God.

Great Lakes Region Reynolds Headquarters Building 1959 5

Minoru Yamasaki Architect

The Great Lakes Region Reynolds Headquarters Building, located in Southfield, Michigan, is a multi-story office building constructed in 1959. The building featured gold anodized aluminum screens in front of a glass curtain wall. When constructed, a water feature similar to those found in several of Yamasaki's other buildings, such as the McGregor Memorial Conference Center and Helen L. DeRoy Auditorium, both at Wayne State University in Detroit, surrounded the building.

Columns surrounding the building hold up the aluminum brise soleil, permanent sun screens, which were popular at the time with Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier. On the interior of the building, the first level is a completely open party space with large diamond-shaped skylights, allowing for grand gatherings to show off the power of Reynolds Aluminum to potential clients. As the sun would change over the day, the changing shadows from the brise soleil create intricate patterns along the marble floors and walls. Light also reflects off the aluminum onto the floor and walls of the party space creating an ephemeral atmosphere. On the second and third floor, offices are arranged around this open space to allow light to radiate into the first floor from all angles.

Aluminum was also used in the skylight frames, the formed ceiling panels on the exterior, and the interior and exterior doors. The use of aluminum in the building was meant to focus the attention, especially the automobile makers in Detroit, on the multi-faceted uses of aluminum. The motif of the screens is a prime example of Yamasaki's "jewel-like" architecture style that he developed after a trip to the Middle East, Europe and Asia in the mid 1950s. Today the building is home to a Bally Total Fitness health club.

In 2009 the legacy of Minoru Yamasaki – Yamasaki Associates Inc. closed. Due to legal disputes and debts Oakland County local government took control of the company. Fearing company records would fall into the "wrong hands" the county ordered the records to be shredded. Working in tandem, preservationist from Illinois and Michigan saved the records. After being alerted by Pauline Salinga, executive director of the Society of Architectural Historians, Brian Conway, Michigan State Historic Preservation Officer, and Mark Harvey, State Archivist organized a local effort to save the records.

House for Mrs. And Mrs. Tivadar Balogh 1958 6

Tivadar Balogh Architect

Tivadar Balogh was born in 1926, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Hungarian immigrants. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in World War II. He graduated from the College of Architecture in 1952. He served another tour in the Navy prior to engaging in professional practice. Balogh was an instructor most of his career and gained much professional experience with fellow alumnus Metcalf. While working with Metcalf in 1958 he also produced design drawings and construction documents for his own house. In 1963, he earned a Citation Award in the Fourth PA (Progressive Architecture) Design Awards Program for the same design. The level of precision in the drawings for the Balogh residence is representative of the majority of drawings produced in Metcalf's office. At his retirement, Balogh had completed approximately 150 residential, institutional, and commercial projects throughout Michigan, Illinois, and Arizona. Balogh died in 2006 and is survived by his wife.

House for Mr. and Mrs. Donald Bacon 1955 7

George B. Brigham Architect

George B. Brigham was born in Massachusetts in 1889. He completed his studies in architecture at M.I.T. and began working in Boston for various firms. He later moved to California where he worked in Pasadena until 1930 when he moved to Michigan after accepting a teaching position. During the building lull of the 1930's in midst of the Great Depression, he used that time to reconsider building design and methods of construction. Utilizing concrete and glass block he introduced the "first" modern house in Ann Arbor for Walter Badger. Brigham also showed a concern for low cost housing. After a visit to California he observed sub-standard migrant worker housing conditions which caused him to develop modular housing units as an effort to improve conditions for workers.

The Bacon residence was recognized as a work of architecture sensitive to its environment. The architect used regional building materials and, by the careful placement of the building in its site, arrived at "The house that belongs to Michigan". Brigham designed many houses in Ann Arbor while maintaining his active professorship, relying on students like Bob Metcalf.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Metcalf Residence 1952 8

The Office of Robert C. Metcalf Architect

Robert C. Metcalf was born in Ohio in 1923. At the age of 17 he applied to the College of Architecture and began his studies in 1941. He continued until 1943 when the events of World War II interrupted his studies. During his time in the armed services he married his wife Betty. Returning to Ann Arbor to complete his studies in architecture Metcalf took a position with Brigham to gain practical experience. He worked for Brigham as a draftsman and supervised construction between 1948 and 1952.

While working for Brigham, Metcalf designed a house for himself and Betty that they would later build together while holding day jobs. Two years after the house was completed, Metcalf began his career as a professional. His vision, to utilize his own home as an example of his abilities and what he could offer future clients, came to fruition and in the course of five years he was commissioned to design nearly 40 single-family residences. During this time Metcalf relied on many Michigan alum to assist him, including William Werner and Tivadar Balogh. Werner and Balogh helped design and produce the necessary drawings and documents to meet the Metcalf client demands.

Metcalf would experience an accomplished 40 year career at the University first as a lecturer, later a professor, chair and eventually become dean of the College of Architecture in 1974. He retired from the university with emeritus status in 1991.

Residence at 1251 Heatherway 1953 9

William Muschenheim Architect

William Emil Muschenheim was born in New York City in 1902. After completing his studies in architecture at M.I.T., he worked for renowned German architect Peter Behrens. In 1931 Philip Johnson recognized Muschenheim as a young modern architect overlooked by the establishment in New York City. Muschenheim's contributions were many and varied. He was a member of the Congres Internationale des Architectes Modernes, American Chapter (CIAM). His belief in color, as an integral part of architecture similar to proportion and form, was not widely subscribed to at the time. Perhaps the most insightful comment regarding his teaching abilities was one made by alum Jose Teran: "Through his intense teachings we learned of the substantial services that an architect can give society, achieving through good design the order of the physical environment. He especially stressed the sublime expression of his art...and the human origins that should guide the planning of our Technological Era."

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Greene Residence 1967 10

David W. Osler Associates

David W. Osler was born and raised in Ann Arbor. He graduated from the College of Art and Design in 1943. Soon after he began working for the firm of Peter Loree Architect. Osler taught courses at the College of Architecture. However, his primary focus was his professional practice. In 1958 he established David W. Osler Associates.

Over the course of a fifty-year career Osler compiled a diverse portfolio of building types ranging from single-family residences to condominiums, libraries and churches. Osler's firm won 22 Michigan Society of Architects awards and earned an honorable mention for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2005, the firm won the Michigan AIA Gold Medal Award.

His father-in-law was Emil Lorch who established the first department of architecture at the University of Michigan in 1906. Each of Osler's three children is actively involved in design
related fields – two are architects. He lives with his wife Connie in Ann Arbor.

Residence for Mr. and Mrs. Walter Sanders 1952 11

Sanders - Malsin - Reiman Architects

Walter Sanders was born in Ann Arbor in 1906. After completing his studies in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania he moved to New York City to begin his practice. He also taught at Colombia University and was associate editor of American Architect and Architectural Forum. Following a lecture he presented at Michigan he taught courses while maintaining his practice in NYC. Eventually he returned to Michigan and was appointed professor of architecture in 1949. Like Muschenheim his contributions were many and varied. Sanders established the first doctoral degree in architecture to be offered in the United States. He was actively involved in the Architectural Research Laboratory where he helped to develop "Unistrut", a new and innovative building system he would later utilize to build his own home. He was also an active forming member of Congres Internationale des Architectes Modernes American Chapter (CIAM), maintaining regular correspondence with Walter Gropius, recognized for his contributions to the modern movement in architecture.

Source & Credits:

1 Drawing reproductions are from primary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Photographs credited to the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Albert Kahn Associates, Ford Motor Company Archives, and Justin Maconochie.

2 All reproductions of drawings and photographs (depicting construction activity) are from primary sources located at Cranbrook Archives. All other photographs are from primary sources located at the Balthazar Korab Studio.

3 Drawing reproductions: Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the Architect. © 2010 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. All photographs are from primary sources located at the Balthazar Korab Studio. Dates of photographs vary between 1959 & 1980.

4 Drawing reproductions courtesy of the Marcel Breuer Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library. Photographs are from primary sources located at the Balthazar Korab Studio.

5 Drawings are reconstructed from the Archives of Michigan - Minoru Yamasaki Collection. All photographs are from primary sources located at the Balthazar Korab Studio.

6 All reproductions are from primary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Color photograph of residence (during the evening hours) by Balthazar Korab, date unknown. Photographer and date of magazine advertisement unknown.

7 All reproductions are from primary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

8 All architectural drawing reproductions are from primary sources courtesy of Robert C. Metcalf. All photographs are from primary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Photographer and dates are unknown

9 All reproductions are from primary and secondary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Photographer and dates unknown.

10 Design drawing reproduction is from a primary source located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Photography by Justin Maconochie 2011.

11 All reproductions are from primary and secondary sources located at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Photographer and dates unknown.

Plan Your Future
Housing, Community, and Economic Development
Land Use and Environmental Planning
Physical Planning and Design
Transportation Planning
Global and Comparative Planning