Posts tagged with "Detroit":

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Architectural League announces winners of 2018 prize for Young Architects + Designers

The Architectural League of New York has announced the winners of its 37th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, meant to highlight and foster up-and-coming architectural and design talent. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to examine the role of objectivity in today’s society when the notion is simultaneously elevated as well as undermined by technology, science, and politics. If we truly do live in a post-truth world, what does objectivity mean for architecture? The 2018 winners, decided through a portfolio competition, are as follows: Anya Sirota of Akoaki, Detroit Akoaki was cofounded by Sirota and Jean Louis Farges in 2008. The Detroit-based architecture and design studio explores reviving urban spaces in their home city through the use of eye-catching temporary installations that encourage public participation. Some of their more otherworldly designs include a frost generator and a trompe l’oeil “red carpet” in Los Angeles. Sirota is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Bryony Roberts of Bryony Roberts Studio, New York Bryony Roberts is a New York-based research and design firm founded in 2011 that actively combines, art, architecture, and preservation. Bryony Roberts actively works to reinvigorate historical places with new life, and the firm has worked on everything from a series of marble tile studies to choreographing dancers in Rome. Roberts herself is an adjunct professor of architecture and preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh of Cadaster, Brooklyn The Brooklyn-based Cadaster, founded in 2016 by Cuéllar and Mufreh, is an architecture studio whose work explores the cross-section between architecture and territory. Their most recent work includes the research project Subversive Real Estate: The Landholding Patterns of American Black Churches, and Upstate Ecologies: Regional Vision for the New York Canal System, the firm’s entry into the international planning competition for the future of New York State’s canal systems. Coryn Kempster of Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, Buffalo Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, cofounded by Kempster and Julia Jamrozik in 2014, focuses on the roles that experience and memory play in architecture. The Buffalo-based firm has built abstract play fields and super-efficient single family homes, but the same attention to detail and user interaction is found throughout their portfolio. Kempster is an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong of Kwong Von Glinow, Chicago Kwong Von Glinow was founded in 2017 by Von Glinow and Kwong and operates out of Chicago. While still young, the architecture studio has already won plenty of recognition for its radical reinterpretation of forms, including its plans for a modular apartment tower in New York and community-centered apartment high-rises in Hong Kong. Kwong teaches as an adjunct professor of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Von Glinow is a part-time professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dan Spiegel of SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, San Francisco SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, co-founded in 2011 by Spiegel and Megumi Aihara, works at the intersection between architecture and urban design. Their portfolio spans everything from the front desk of the Casper office to a try-on truck for lingerie startup True & Co. SAW was also recently recognized with an AN 2017 Best of Design Awards for Young Architects. Spiegel currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. The jury for this year’s prize was composed of 2018 Young Architects + Designers Committee, as well as Tatiana Bilbao, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Georgeen Theodore, and Claire Weisz. From June 21 through August 4, an exhibition featuring an installation from each of the winners will be installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design / The New School, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, 66 Fifth Avenue. On June 21 at 7:00 PM, Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts will be giving lectures in the exhibition space. On June 22 at 7:00 PM, Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong, Anya Sirota, and Dan Spiegel will be giving their lectures in the same location. The Architectural League has also announced the publication of Young Architects 18: (im)permanence, a collection of projects from the 2016 League Prize Winners.
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Cranbrook is gifted Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Smith House

Already the home of work by Eliel Saarinen, Albert Kahn and Stephen Holl, Metro Detroit’s Cranbrook has acquired the Melvyn Maxwell and Sarah Stein Smith House, a 1950 Usonian home in Bloomfield Hills designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for two Detroit public school teachers. The home comes to Cranbrook via a donation from the Towbes Foundation and provides the institution with ownership of the Smith House as an educational resource. The Smith house has been preserved exactly as it was when the Smiths lived in it. While studying at the City College of Detroit, now Wayne State University, Melvyn Maxwell Smith saw an image of Fallingwater during a slide presentation and was instantly hooked on Wright. With equal financial backing from his wife Sarah Stein Smith, the couple travelled to Taliesin, where they asked Wright to design a home for $5,000. Wright negotiated $8,000 and waited for the couple to save up to purchase a suitable piece of property. Deeply occupied by his work on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Wright communicated regularly with the Smiths once he delivered the design for the home and urged Melvyn Maxwell Smith to work as his own general contractor to keep costs down, and one that would allow Smith to control the quality of work. Smith gathered a team of contractors, journeymen and friends to work on the house, including those that agreed to work for a reduced rate in exchange for the privilege of being a part of the project. With the Smiths paying as they went, construction moved slowly. As the house was nearing completion, the Smiths found themselves without funds to purchase the windows. Real estate investor Al Taubman, another FLW super fan, found himself visiting the construction site just as Melvyn Maxwell Smith was boarding up the window openings with plywood. After listening to Smith lament that he was down to his last $500, and worrying that inclement weather would damage the house, Taubman had installers from the Pittsburg Plate Glass Window Company arrive the next day to measure and install the windows and sent the Smiths a bill for exactly $500. Over time, the Smiths filled the house with sculptures and designed objects by artists associated with Cranbrook. Melvyn Maxwell Smith lived in the house until his death in 1984. Sarah Stein Smith stayed until moving to California in 1991. The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is responsible for stewarding the Smith House and is also undertaking an oral history project to collect stories from artists and contractors that worked on the project.
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Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, David Adjaye selected to design Detroit’s West Riverfront Park

Beating out a pool of over 80 international design teams, a team with Brooklyn-based landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and Sir David Adjaye have been chosen to transform the 22-acre West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. While the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has stressed that they were choosing a team, not a design, MVVA’s presented plan for the park would substantially change the waterfront. While the final four competitors for the park presented big names in landscape architecture, including James Corner Field Operations, Hood Design Studio and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, the diverse programming proposed by MVVA ultimately won out. The $50-million redevelopment will present all-ages options throughout the shore, including the carving out of a beach inside of a secluded cove. Now that the design team has been chosen, the MVVA-led team and Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will solicit input from the community to nail down the final design details. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will also fundraise to reach the rest of the $50 million goal in the meantime, meaning the construction and completion date for the project are uncertain at the time of writing. MVVA’s design for the riverfront park mixes active uses with more passive recreational areas and mingles the park’s natural systems with the city grid, similar to firm’s approach at Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the western side of the park, there will be a pool house and built up “performance hill,” complete with a clamshell-shaped amphitheater that will sit on a pier in the river. The circular “Sport House” will go up to the east, which from the renderings looks like it will float above a basketball court and feature a green roof on top. Moving east, a tall, artificial bluff will surround the park house and picnic grove. Perhaps the most prominent feature in the proposal is the aforementioned beach at the park’s center, which will be hemmed in by a stone jetty to the west and a fishing pier to the east, likely to prevent erosion. MVVA’s renderings show kayakers and beach-goers relaxing in the summer and skating on the frozen river in the winter, part of the Conservancy's vision for an all-year-round park. Capping off the eastern edge of the park is the enormous “Great Lakes Play Garden” for children, and “Evergreen Isle.” The stone island sits parallel to the playground in the river and is designed to break up ice floes and anchor ecological improvements by creating a shallow, biologically diverse channel. The shore of the entire park will be bounded by the Detroit Riverwalk. “It was love at first sight when I saw the Detroit River,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh in a press release. “I immediately recognized that this new park could draw the city to the water’s edge.” West Riverfront Park is bounded by Rosa Parks Boulevard to the west and Eighth Street to the east, a stretch that had been in private hands for nearly 100 years before the Conservancy purchased it in 2014. A $345,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s “Livable Communities” focus area financed the West Riverfront Park Design Competition. MVVA’s team for the project, besides David Adjaye, will also include Utile and Mobility in Chain, and local partners LimnoTech (Ann Arbor), PEA (Detroit) and NTH Consultants (Northville).
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Ford may redevelop Detroit’s abandoned Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station, a hulking ruin, is a 230-foot-tall symbol of urban decline a stone's throw away from Downtown Detroit. Now, though, Ford Motor Company is in talks to buy the abandoned station from its owners, the Moroun family. As soon as April, the Dearborn, Michigan–based automaker could ink a deal that would transform the 500,000-square-foot train station in the city's Corktown neighborhood into—well, it's not really clear at this time.  In the past, Ford leadership said that expanding their workforce in Detroit, historically a home base for the company, is part of a strategy to attract and retain younger talent, many of whom want to live in cities. The news comes as Ford is moving around 200 workers to a facility down the street; those familiar with the just-announced deal say 1,000 or more workers could fit inside a transformed Michigan Central Station. "At this time, Ford is focused on locating our autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle business and strategy teams, including Team Edison, to The Factory in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood," Ford spokesman Said Deep told Crain's, which first reported the story. "While we anticipate our presence over time will grow as our (autonomous/electric vehicle) teams begin moving downtown in May, we have nothing further to announce at this time." Amtrak stopped running trains through the station in 1988, and since then, the Michigan Avenue building has served as a low-hanging symbol of Detroit's deindustrialization. Alongside countless ruins tourists on Flickr, artists like Camilo José Vergara and Andrew Moore have extensively documented the decline of the station and the surrounding city. Recently, though, the Moroun family has brought the space back to life, somewhat. Last summer, they opened the building to a Crain's-produced event for investors interested in the city, and they've spent $8 million on window replacement and structural upgrades in the past three years. If Ford drives the station deal home, it would not be the automaker's only major investment in its Michigan physical assets. Ford is in the midst of a ten-year, $1.2-billion overhaul of its neighboring Dearborn campus, with the help of architects at SmithGroupJJR.

Critical Needs in Planning the ‘Good City’: Lessons From Detroit

Professor June Manning Thomas will give a lecture, Critical Needs In Planning the 'Good City,' in honor of her recognition as the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning. A reception will follow in the Rackham Building Assembly Hall. Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning June Manning Thomas will give the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University of Michigan Professor of Urban Planning Lecture at Taubman College. As one of nine faculty members university-wide to receive this top faculty honor this year, Thomas is also the first faculty member at Taubman College to receive this prestigious designation. Thomas is a pre-eminent scholar on how racial inequality and disunity have affected the planning, evolution, and redevelopment of cities and their neighborhoods. Her work focuses on economically distressed central cities, addressing issues of planning theory and socialjustice. Her co-edited book Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows is a path-breaking exploration of key connections between racial injustice and urban planning. Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit won the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s Paul Davidoff Award for urban planning books published in in the area of social justice. She has written or co-edited three additional books related to race and poverty in Detroit and in other depopulated cities in the Midwest as well as dozens of book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. She also has written policy reports for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. Her recent research explores community development in Detroit and the 1960s civil rights movement in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she helped integrate the local high school. Her research has been widely recognized by numerous academic awards including her election as a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She is a prominent and highly effective national advocate for diversity and inclusion of under-represented faculty and students in urban planning academic programs. In 2013 she was named president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, where she encouraged greater racial diversity in the nation’s urban planning schools.
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Metro Detroit still struggling to agree on regional transit plan

Despite the weekly announcement of new developments in Detroit, from stadiums to skyscrapers, the city still faces a number of systemic issues that continue to plague its large population of economically disadvantaged residents. One of these issues, the topic of much-heated debate in recent years, is transit. The 2016 election represented a chance for the entire southeast Michigan region to reinvigorate its mass transit system, but a “no” vote sent planners and citizens back to the drawing board in hopes of a second try in 2018. The Regional Transit Master Plan, put forward by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA), was meant to unify mass transit in the four counties surrounding Detroit with $4.7 billion in new investments, raised from a new tax and available state and federal funds. The RTA was founded in 2012 to successfully achieve this, after nearly half a century of other failed authorities. Going back as far as the 1950s, transit has been strictly divided between the mostly white suburbs and the mostly African American Detroit. And while there are many indications that this was a racial issue when the policy was made, today it has become an economic issue that many believe can no longer be ignored. Detroit’s transportation needs are enigmatic in many ways. The city is in the top ten for least car owners per capita, while it does not even chart in per-capita spending on mass transit. While three in five Detroiters work outside of the city, often in low-paying jobs, three in four jobs in the city are filled by workers from the suburbs. This means that Detroit has one of the longest average commuting distances in the country, a bit over ten miles. Many areas of the city don’t have nearly enough jobs, some as low as 100 positions per 1,000 residents. All of this together means that the economies of the suburbs and the city are inextricably linked; reliable mass transit would be an undeniable asset. The Regional Transit Master Plan was designed specifically to address these disparities and provide more comprehensive service to the entire region. Regional bus rapid transit (BRT) routes would run from the suburbs to the city center, new routes would be developed in currently underserved areas, and a regional light rail would stretch from Detroit to Ann Arbor. One of the major aspects of the plan, which was also one of the most debated, was that it would no longer allow individual suburbs to opt out of the transit system. Currently 50 suburbs have no mass transit system, as they have opt- ed out of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). This is cited as being one of the main reasons for service gaps in outlying areas. Another is- sue facing opposition was the funding model, which included a new tax that would cost most taxpayers approximately $95 per year over the next 20 years. When the plan came up for vote in the November 2016 election, it was rejected by roughly 20,000 votes, losing 49.5 percent to 50.5 percent. The measure was approved in two of the counties, and came close in a third. Alone, the fourth, Macomb County, was able to sway the outcome. One year on, the RTA is still trying to figure out a path forward with the possibility of another proposal in 2018. Not waiting for that possibility, the suburban transit system, SMART, is launching its own extended BRT system to provide greater links to the city. Detroit has made recent transit headway also. The QLine, a new streetcar that was in the works before the regional plan and which relies partially on private funding, opened in 2017. Currently, discussions have started within the RTA concerning a new proposal. Early ideas have included reducing the area the authority is responsible for. The RTA has noted that roughly 28 percent of the “no” votes in the election came from more rural areas that would be less directly affected by a regional transit system. As the RTA was specifically established to build a regional transit system, enacting a plan is more than just a goal; it is do-or-die for the organization. If no plan is pushed forward, many fear the RTA will go the way of the numerous other regional planning authorities before it. While Detroit’s transit situation may be singular in its dire position, it is not the only metropolitan area that has seen a renewed interest in comprehensive mass transit. This was highlighted in the rush of dozens of cities to bid for Amazon HQ2. In Amazon’s request for proposals, it specifically stated that it was looking for a city with efficient, reliable mass transit. While this did not stop cities like Detroit from apply- ing, many will likely point to it as a reason Detroit will not get the call from Amazon. Even cities like Chicago, with well-established, well-funded mass transit, are looking to the near future for improvements. The 2018–2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan, put forward by the Regional Transit Authority of the Chicago area, just finished an initial round of public input, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is working on the On to 2050 plan, which includes extensive regional transit guidance. Chicago also happens to be a contender for the Amazon HQ2 project, and transit has been one of its major selling points. The path ahead of the Detroit metropolitan area’s transit future is currently very unclear. Even when suburban and urban agencies were able to come together behind a comprehensive plan, their constituencies thwarted them. While the city itself has enjoyed a recent spotlight surrounding new development, particularly in its downtown, any Detroiter will tell you that the city has a long way to go to match its prosperous past. Many hope that effective transit will also help bring economic opportunity to the many who have never had it.
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Detroit’s historic National Theatre to be scrapped for $800 million development

On December 26, commercial developers Bedrock Detroit released conceptual drawings for its proposed incorporation of Albert Kahn's decaying and vacant National Theatre into their $800 million Monroe Blocks redevelopment. According to The Detroit News, the project would add a 35-story office tower and four mixed-use buildings within the city center. Kahn designed the Moorish Revival-Beaux Arts hybrid National Theatre in 1911, but the structure was abandoned in 1975. While the building has been allowed to decay, it remains the last in Detroit’s historic theatre district. The ongoing struggle to reverse Detroit’s economic fortunes has led to an increasing appreciation of historic structures within the city, as demonstrated by the ongoing restoration work of the Shinola Hotel, and the Albert Khan and Fisher Buildings. A critical asset behind Detroit’s renewal is the preservation of its architectural past. Although the development of unused land within the city center has few opponents, Detroit News reports that only the white-glazed terra-cotta facade and gold-domed towers of the National Theatre building will be preserved by Bedrock Detroit. This leaves the rest of the theatre space subject to demolition. Additionally, the facade will be dismantled piece by piece while undergoing restoration, and will subsequently be returned to a location within the Bedrock’s redevelopment scheme. While Preservation Detroit has voiced support for the Monroe Blocks redevelopment, the organization has expressed concern that only saving the facade compromises the district’s history and  removes an opportunity to restore the existing building within the development. Bedrock is presently involved in a number of ambitious projects in Detroit, such as the restoration of the iconic Book Building and the development of SHoP Architects-designed 1206 Woodward Avenue. For now, the restored facade of the National Theatre will only serve as a pedestrian portal for the upcoming project.
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SHoP breaks ground on Michigan’s future tallest building

Michigan Government Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert were on hand for the groundbreaking of what will be the tallest building in Michigan. The SHoP-designed project is now expected to rise to 800 feet, making it at least 70 feet taller than John Portman's Renaissance Center, currently the city's tallest building. New renderings show a slightly more conservative formal language for the project. Most notably, the once slightly twisting tower has been straightened out, and deep curving insets have been designed out of the second (lower) building of the project. New York–based SHoP is working with local architects Hamilton Anderson Associates on the project, which is being overseen by Gilbert’s Bedrock development company. The $900 million project will include well over 300 residential units in the 58-story tower, which sits next to an additional 12-story mixed-use building. The ground level of the lower building will include a large market and exhibition space, along with other retail and civic spaces. An observation deck will top the tower. “The building is conceived around a huge and inspiring new public space, a year-round civic square that, both in its architecture and its culture, will foster and convey the feeling we all share when we work together to imagine what this great city can become,” said William Sharples, principal at SHoP, in a press release. The project is being built on what was once the site of one of Detroit’s most popular department stores, Hudson’s. Once the tallest department store in the world at 25 stories, the Hudson’s building was closed in the early 1980s and imploded in 1998. “Ever since Hudson’s closed its doors in 1983, Detroiters have waited and wondered what would come next and what could possibly live up to the incredible history of that block,” said Mayor Mike Duggan at the groundbreaking. “It’s taken nearly 35 years to get that answer, but when people watch this incredible new building rise and see all of the jobs and opportunity it brings, it will have been worth the wait.” The groundbreaking earlier this week begins the three-year building process. Along with this new project, Bedrock is planning to invest $2.1 billion in four projects throughout the city.
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2017 Best of Design Awards for Residential – Multi-Unit

2017 Best of Design Award for Residential – Multi-Unit: True North Designer: EC3 Location: Detroit, Michigan True North is a development comprised of nine rental units and shared community gardens located two-and-a-half miles from Downtown Detroit in a quiet, spacious neighborhood. It has received widespread recognition for pioneering creative, affordable design attuned to its community. For aesthetic and economic reasons, the client challenged the architect to utilize Quonset Huts, a prefabricated lightweight structure consisting of corrugated galvanized steel and having a semicircular cross section. The placement of the huts balances openness and security, views and privacy, socializing and solitude. Each structure is assembled on top of a four-inch concrete slab with in-floor radiant heat, which is also the unit’s finished floor. The end walls feature custom steel framing around polycarbonate panels that provide a higher level of security, natural light and high thermal value. Each interior is unique and designed to inspire different creative lifestyles in Detroit. “It’s always nice to see architects do so much with so little. Despite the restraints of working with prefabricated structures and limited materials palette, they’ve made a surprisingly beautiful development—one that could easily be repeated—for a city that needs creative solutions.” —Morris Adjmi, Principal, Morris Adjmi Architects (juror) Client: Prince Concepts Executive Architect: Studio Detroit Site and Landscape Design: EC3 Landscape Contractor: Heroes Landscape Manufacturer: SteelMaster   Honorable Mention Project: American Copper Building Architect: SHoP Architects Location: New York The American Copper Buildings present two bold and dynamic copper towers ‘dancing’ on NYC's East River. The 761-unit luxury rental community, designed to patinate over time, reaches 41 and 48 stories in height with an iconic, amenity-filled skybridge connecting the two towers.   Honorable Mention  Project: 2510 Temple Architect: Tighe Architecture  Location: Los Angeles

Perched within Los Angeles’s Historic Filipinotown, this combination of market-rate and affordable apartment units responds to the city’s housing crisis. Clad in metal panels, the sculptural form of the entry serves as a connection between the private areas of the project and commercial storefronts at street level.

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Watch the failed implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome

It took two tries to substantially demolish the Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. On an unseasonably warm, but brisk Sunday morning, fans gathered to watch the spectacle of a controlled blast that was to partially implode the stadium. Once the series of explosions went off, nothing happened. The plan called for charges on major structural steel columns to be blasted, bringing down the upper level of the stadium and the ring which once secured its dome. According to a statement released by the City of Pontiac mayor Deirdre Waterman, eight of the shape charges did not go off. It would take a second try, on Monday afternoon, to bring the upper levels down, and begin the nine to 12-month process of demolishing the whole building. Built in 1975, the Silverdome was home to the Detroit Pistons during the 1980s and the Detroit Lions until 2002.
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Remembering modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts

Latvian-American modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts died at the age of 92 on August 15, just as his legacy is beginning to be reevaluated by contemporary architects and historians alike. Based in the Detroit area for over 40 years, Birkerts designed distinctive buildings in the central United States and taught studios and seminars as a professor at the University of Michigan. His work was characterized by an experimental attitude toward materials, an intuitive approach to space planning, and an uncommon keenness for innovation in the use of daylight. Riga, Latvia’s National Library of Latvia (NLL), Birkerts’s last and greatest building, was completed in 2014 after about 25 years of work on the project. The NLL is a marvelous culmination of his career. Its completion was doubly special because Birkerts—born in Riga and the son of Latvian folklorists Peteris and Merija Shop Birkerts—had long been committed to the maintenance of his nation’s cultural heritage. Birkerts’s renown peaked between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, when he completed a group of buildings that broke open the increasingly stale forms and material palette of modern architecture. These buildings diffused light on matte surfaces or refracted it from polished materials to reduce the glare that too often plagues sheer glass buildings. Birkerts was one of many “displaced persons” who arrived in the U.S. after World War II. He emigrated here after an architectural education at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, in Germany, and eventually settled in the Detroit area. Birkerts worked for Eero Saarinen in the early 1950s, as his firm was developing a laboratory-like working method driven by model building and materials testing. He later left the Saarinen office for Minoru Yamasaki’s—also in the Detroit area—where he contributed to that firm’s decorative embellishment of modernism. He often cited Eero and “Yama” as the two most profound influences on his approach to architecture. He left Yamasaki and formed a partnership with Frank Straub in 1962, then founded his independent firm Gunnar Birkerts & Associates in 1964. Even after most of his former colleagues at the Saarinen office—Kevin Roche, César Pelli, and Robert Venturi, among others—had departed for more cosmopolitan locales on the East and West coasts, Birkerts stayed in Detroit because he wanted to remain independent of any particular cadre or school. This individualist spirit was Birkerts’s key bequest to the generation of architecture students and office associates he guided. Because of his individualism, Birkerts was perfectly suited to the Detroit area, with its history of tinkerers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. “We may have been building Ferraris,” Birkerts said in a 2015 interview, “but we were doing it in a garage,” suggesting that the polished, industrial design–like aesthetic of his buildings was not mirrored in his office environment or working method. Indeed, in his later years, Birkerts expressed skepticism about the rising importance of digital design in architecture, believing that it distanced architects from the intuitive, the experimental, and the handmade. Loose sketching and conceptual metaphors occupied an increasingly central position in his creative process during his later years. These attitudes caused him to lose favor in the style- and technology-obsessed culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. Rebuffing the flamboyance of postmodernism and the structural exaggerations of High Tech, Birkerts spent those years laboring on several unrealized megaprojects in Italy, and on unjustly overlooked U.S. work including the Frank Lloyd Wright–infused Domino’s Farms development in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Later designs show Birkerts’s ability to deftly integrate motifs from the national romanticist and art nouveau buildings of his home city without descending into pastiche. Despite these unusual ingredients, he remained staunchly committed to modernism. But his was not the dogmatic International Style of earlier architects. Instead of codifying rules, Birkerts continued modernism’s intuitive tradition of individual expression. We can still learn much from his example.
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Detroit’s Shinola Hotel unveils new renderings

It has been 11 months since ground was broken on the Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit. Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock and Detroit-based watch company Shinola have just released new renderings of the forthcoming project. Expected to be completed in late 2018, the hotel will fit into two existing buildings and additional new infill buildings along a quickly-developing stretch of Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit. New York-based Gachot Studios and Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group worked together on the design, which includes 130 rooms and ground-floor retail. Rather than a completely new structure, the hotel is being built into two existing buildings, 1400 and 1416 Woodward Avenue, with three new infill buildings connecting and extending the footprint of the two. When completed, each of the interlocked buildings will maintain a varied material and color palette along the street facade to better match the surrounding city fabric. Bedrock has been responsible for some of the most ambitious recent development in Downtown Detroit. Co-founded by Detroit native and Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, Bedrock is the developer behind the proposed 52-story SHoP-designed tower, which is scheduled to break ground this week. Shinola is also well known in Detroit for its Detroit-first business model. Initially started as a watch company, it now produces leather goods, bicycles, and, most recently, audio equipment. Shinola has been vocal about bringing small industry back to Detroit and providing jobs for the city’s residents. Additionally, the leather and many of the components for Shinola products are made in the United States and assembled in the company’s Detroit factory. The company has not been without its critics. Some have pointed out that since the watches are made with inexpensive quartz movement, instead of self-winding mechanical movement, they are decidedly overpriced. Others have noted that the Texas-based parent company of Shinola simply chose to open shop in Detroit for marketing reasons. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission also had something to say about the company’s marketing, ordering it to stop using the phrase “Where America is Made,” as certain watches it sells are made of materials produced 100% outside of the United States. Despite these criticisms, the company has been praised by the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who have both purchased watches. Shinola has also played a role in shaping Detroit by opening a leash-less dog park, and donating four large building clocks to the City of Detroit, to be installed at cultural institutions. Ironically, the retail space of the new hotel is not planned to include a Shinola store. Even so, when the project opens in approximately one year, there will be no mistake about the lifestyle and brand the company is promoting in America's Comeback City.