Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture
"Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture" by Michael G. Smith
In the early 1900s, Detroit was leading the nation in architectural innovation and designer Wirt Rowland was at the forefront of this advancement, yet few are even aware of his substantial contribution to the evolution of architectural style. It is widely believed that celebrated local architect Albert Kahn designed many of Detroit’s structures, such as the General Motors and First National Bank buildings. In fact, while Kahn’s efforts were focused on running his highly successful firm, it was Rowland, his chief designer, who was responsible for the appearance and layout of these buildings—an important point in appreciating the contributions of both Kahn and Rowland. During the early twentieth century, Rowland devised a wholly new or "modern" design for buildings, one not reliant on decorative elements copied from architecture of the past. As buildings became more specialized for their intended use, Rowland met the challenge with entirely new design methodologies and a number of improved technologies and materials that subsequently became commonplace.
Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture begins with a brief overview of Rowland’s early life and career. Author Michael G. Smith goes on to analyze Rowland’s achievements in building design and as a leader of Detroit’s architectural community throughout both World Wars and the Great Depression. The interdependence of architecture with the city’s fluctuating economic prosperity and population growth is explored, illuminating the conditions for good architecture and the arts in general. The author identifies the influence of Jay Hambidge’s "dynamic symmetry" in Rowland’s work and how it allowed him to employ color as a modern replacement for traditional ornamentation, leading to the revolutionary design of the Union Trust (Guardian) Building, for which he receives nearly unanimous praise in national media. This book is concerned primarily with Rowland’s influence on Detroit architecture, but spans beyond his work in Michigan to include the designer’s broad reach from New York to Miami. A comprehensive appendix includes extensive lists of Rowland’s publications, locations he had designed, and jobs taken on by his firm during his tenure.
This book represents new research and insights not previously discussed in either scholarly or general audience texts and will be of interest to casual readers of Detroit history, as well as architecture historians.
Hardcover: 496 pages
The Art of Collaboration and Innovation
"The Art of Collaboration and Innovation" by Albert Kahn Associates For 125 years, Albert Kahn and Associates, Inc. has committed to designing and engineering innovative facilities that surpass the needs of...
Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade
"Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade" by Romie Minor, Laurie Ann Tamborino, and the Parade Company Since 1924, Detroit's annual Thanksgiving parade has delighted people of all ages. The parade's spectacular balloons, floats,...
Christmas in Detroit
"Christmas in Detroit " by Bill Loomis No city seems to love Christmas as much as Detroit. Whether at Hudson’s, sitting at the Fox Theatre or seeing the hundreds of dolls and...