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The Parcells house, designed by Paul Rudolph, is a dramatic departure from the conservative architectural taste of most homes in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Farms. As the only Michigan residence by the famed architect, this home had led a surprisingly quiet existence until June 2014, when it was listed for sale at $1.8 million.
The sellers bought the 1970 home from the Parcells in 1985. Aside from a kitchen redesign, they preserved the home as Rudolph designed it. The home was completed after Rudolph had left his seven-year long position as chairman of the School of Architecture at Yale in 1965 and moved his offices to New York.
Dr. Frank H. Parcells and his wife Anne commissioned the home for the couple and their five children. The waterfront home faces Lake Saint Clair and was designed to give waterfront views to almost every room. As the home sits on a lot at the end of a cul-de-sac where heavy plantings and trees cover the driveway and maintain privacy, it is, for the most part, only viewable by boat. Upon entry, one looks up a few steps into the dining room and out at the lake; the ceiling rises three floors as stairs and balconies run through the height of the space. While the home is three stories, the two wings have staggered volumes off of the main hall, so that it feels more like five stories. The Parcells explained that they wanted one bedroom level for the parents, one for their sons, and one for their daughters. Lofty sitting areas with half walls sit off the main space while the bedrooms are tucked into the wings.
The Parcell family requested a lot of wood, so the exterior portions are mainly weathered red wood boards, painted brown, that run horizontally. The rest is all windows. The house looks like a series of stacked boxes of various sizes. In a 1986 interview with a local Grosse Pointe lifestyle magazine, Heritage, Frank Parcells was quoted as saying, “we knew that having an architect like Rudolph would mean that he’d have as few restrictions as possible. But clearly it had to be our home so he had to know what we wanted and needed, too.” The Parcells described their goal to build a contemporary structure that would not impose their architectural preferences on others, i.e., offend the neighbors.
The Detroit area almost had a second Rudolph-designed structure. In 1966, Rudolph completed a design for the Monteith center for Detroit’s Wayne State University. The proposed humanities building was described as a series of small spaces (seminar rooms, offices, activities rooms) on a series of ramps. The central volume was to be a skylight space that ran the height of building volume. It was never built.