for marcel breuer's admirers


reflect, not respect. crap, i'm so glad it's friday.

Jan 26, 07 3:21 pm  · 
vado retro

just a thought. if the freepress columnist is notified and the archinect brand is mentioned and said columnist is interested that the archinect brand is involved he may cite archinect and its contributions. therefore, using qualified terms such as douchebag when referring to another professional, is in fact, quite unprofessional. in fact, perhaps the editors should go through this thread and edit out all unprofessional and useless comments, mine included.

Jan 26, 07 3:28 pm  · 
Chili Davis

The craggy one doth havith a point.

Jan 26, 07 3:32 pm  · 

i warned mr gallagher of 'sarcasm', but....yeah.

Jan 26, 07 3:40 pm  · 

agreed agreed. i didn't think to warn Mr. Kamin (who received a link to this thread when I emailed him)...

Also, side note perhaps...Robert Gatje, former employee/partner(?) of Breuer (mentioned above) wrote a pleasant memoir of his experience working w/ the modern master, which included a few tid-bits on another of Breuer's former employees, one Dick Meier (as he was known at the time)...

I wonder if he would give this topic a second thought...

Jan 26, 07 3:57 pm  · 
MB: A Memoir
Jan 26, 07 3:59 pm  · 

Gross Point Public Library Meeting Notes 06-26-06

Update on Central Library – Jim Mumby – Fanning/Howey

Using visual aids, Mr. Mumby began by explaining how the building would be positioned on the current site. His design concept showed a 45,000 to 50,000 sq. foot, 3-level structure with underground parking on a footprint similar to the current building. He noted that zoning requirements limit the height to 55 feet with a 25 foot setback. In addition, the Board would have to negotiate with the school system to acquire the small piece of land which juts into the parking lot. Unlike a previous proposal, this design would not have the parking structure located under the ball field. It would be entirely under our own building with access at the rear. Jim described some of the features of the new design including a meeting room twice the size of the room at the new Woods Branch,space for a coffee shop or gift shop, and a collection of 70,000 volumes compared to the current 49,000 volumes at Central. He concluded his presentation by stating that, if the Board considered this concept a viable option, he would recommend that they move forward with a feasibility study. Mr. Mumby then took questions from the Board and the audience.

Mary Beth Smith asked about the size of the proposed store or coffee shop area and was told it would be 1300 to 1400 sq. feet and was designed to be accessible during hours that the library is closed. Mayor Farquhar of Grosse Pte. Farms asked at what point the Board would present plans to the city involved and was told that the Board had worked in close cooperation with both city governments involved in the Woods and Ewald projects and would do the same with the Central project. Charles Collinson asked if the handicapped parking in the structure would meet state requirements and was assured that it would. Vicki Granger commented that one of the issues at the Woods Branch was public safety and said she hoped that would also be a consideration with this project. Sue Steiger asked how public access would be controlled after hours and Mr. Mumby said the coffee and shop areas would be independent and secured separately from the library itself. Mr. Frederickson thanked Jim for his pro bono effort but noted that other ideas would also be considered. Mr. Mumby said he fully understood that this is Fanning/Howey’s opportunity to help the community and that there would, of course, be a competitive bidding process. Dave Bergeron added that funds for this project are not currently available and would require going to the community for some level of financial support in the future.

Jan 26, 07 4:04 pm  · 
liberty bell

Watch it with the "craggy" references, Chili - vado might have to smite you.

Sorry I said "schlock" up above. How about "not to my taste".

Edit at will, Archinect.

Jan 26, 07 4:10 pm  · 

This what ya be lookin for my friends!

Jan 26, 07 4:18 pm  · 

The issue of demolishing an important piece of architectural history seems to be sickening trend in the Detroit area. The significance of creating well designed spaces has fallen by the wayside in most aspects and given rise to an architecture that is based on misguided aesthetics trends. As part of the design community in the area this building is a chance for us to educate the laymen on the importance of preserving these types of spaces. Is there a possibility of the archinectors in the Detroit area doing some sort of research towards a solution to saving the building? I imagine that given our resources and knowledge of the area we could propose multiple solutions that do not include the demolition of the building.

Jan 26, 07 4:24 pm  · 

discuss detroit, dial4hipster

First of all, this is the only building in Michigan designed by Marcel Breuer, an acknowledged 20th century master. It's an important work by any standard, whatever issues someone with a more traditional aesthetic might express.

The involvement of Breuer was brokered and championed by W. Hawkins Ferry, a Grosse Pointer and forum hero best known on here for his book "The Buildings of Detroit." Ferry was also a major donor to the arts - his private modern art collection formed a significant portion of the DIA's modern collection when it was donated - and he was a big part of the "Art in the Stations" project for the Detroit People Mover (the Pewabic installation in the Times Square Station is dedicated to his memory).

Jan 26, 07 4:25 pm  · 

cool snooker! where did you find that info?

Jan 26, 07 4:32 pm  · 

Jan 26, 07 4:43 pm  · 

I will just post the site so you can look for yourself: It is actually a good site where you have great ability to zoom and pan.


Jan 26, 07 4:46 pm  · 

no, i meant the blurb about w hawkins ferry.

Jan 26, 07 4:51 pm  · 

It is in a blog for the detroit free press responding to the published article. There are a few worthy comments, but mostly just garbage.

Jan 26, 07 4:57 pm  · 

This might tickle you silly w. hawkin ferry

Jan 26, 07 5:04 pm  · 

w hawkin ferry

Jan 26, 07 5:06 pm  · 

I was wondering if anyone knows if "Our Library" made this book.

Maybe someone out in hinderland can track down the book and check.

The 50 Most Significant Structures in Michigan by the Michigan Society of Architects. Detroit: Michigan Society of Architects, 1980.

Jan 26, 07 5:13 pm  · 

good stuff, snooker. and that dial4hipster from the discussion you linked is a pretty knowledgeable person as well. i love this stuff.

that discussion was also illuminating just as an indicator of attitudes. obviously the staff thinks the building isn't working and is therefore irredeemably bad[/b]. renovation, if the staff, board, and community choose not to see that what is bad it could be modified, will be a hard sell.

but at least there's already a little bit of backlash against the woods and the other fairly recent building. a good sign that this building may gain some champions yet. people are paying enough attention to know that they aren't satisfied with a randomly applied history collage, even if they think faux history is what they want.

bartell's use of 'undistinguished' about this building is an interesting and canny choice of pejorative. for someone who doesn't like modern, 'ugly' is too provocative. but indicating that it simply [i]isn't worth consideration
by calling it undistinguished is a pretty good strategy. some will accept that judgment without thinking about it any further.

Jan 26, 07 5:35 pm  · 

well. all that italicization was not intentional. sorry.

Jan 26, 07 5:37 pm  · 

I find it of particular interest that WHF, was such a mover and shaker in the world of modernism. I was wondering about the
wall of art, mentioned in the blog. Any idea what this is all about.....

Oh Friends, I will let you have it long as you bring the Calder Home
with ya.

Jan 26, 07 5:57 pm  · 

wow snooker...that blog is an entertaining read. thanks for sharing.

Jan 26, 07 6:05 pm  · 

guys, i've been out for most of the day, so just catching up. i'm in for the charrette, i think it's a fantastic idea. if we get plans and sections, we could work on them individually or in teams and then post the results on the ftp [i'm not sure how it works but it can't be that hard]. a pbwiki might also be useful.

crazy idea- [and take into account i've been sick all day]. what about having parking + more parking on top the current parking lot, and then making a self supporting structure over the actual library and putting a very transparent box on top for more program? the structural part would be difficult but not necessarily impossible. i think additions done respectfully but without mimiquing can be quite fantastic [castelvecchio, swiss embassy in berlin by diener and diener, lots of examples]

i think design wise we could follow different paths and see where each goes. one would be pursuing a nearby lot, independent of the building [and having a new use for the old building]. another would be adding on to the building [like mentioned above]. a third strategy would be to have a new building in a nearby lot but share both facilities [these have all been mentioned above, i'm just putting them together].

Jan 26, 07 9:45 pm  · 

The ftp is up and running. IF you have contacted me by email, you already have directions on how to access it. Some ground rules to save space:

Post links to items that are already online, no need to copy and past stuff if everyone can already access it online.

Also, I didn't bother to lock up the website yet, please don't mess with the real estate in other folders.

Once again, if you have something to add, be sure to email me, and I can set you up with access. If you are having trouble accessing let me know.


Jan 26, 07 10:35 pm  · 

Just found this thread, and I'm incredibly impressed. Netroots architectural activism. Love it.

Did anyone else notice the bit in the meeting minutes that snooker posted that they had considered a parking garage under the adjacent baseball field? Seems that would be the most logical solution, allowing them to more than double their space with a taller addition on the existing parking lot. (Perhaps keeping it no taller than would be visible from the street in front of the building.) With a cursory scan of baseball fields in the surrounding area, I count 12 within a half-mile of this library. How much baseball do these people play? All the library needs is some creative brokering with the surrounding property owners and they're set.

Jan 27, 07 12:47 am  · 

FTP site has an aerial based .dwg site plan for those who want to play. Also, the Wayne County GIS site shows the library, ball fields and school (?) are all on one parcel. Don't know if this is just an anomaly, it helps explain option considered in archtopus' comment, I can't see any reason why they can't encroach.

Jan 27, 07 12:58 am  · 

thanks, josh. got my email.

i've been poring through board meeting minutes of previous months and can't find the discussion of use of the high school property, specifically the area of the baseball field. wonder why they decided against that option. i'm sure there would have been a board discussion of it...

the baseball field looks fairly recent. conservative boards are unlikely to consider undoing something that represents money already spent. and, given their tight quarters, i bet there are little turf battles between the library and the school. especially if there is not a defined boundary as joshcookie suggests might be the case.

Jan 27, 07 8:06 am  · 
rondo mogilskie

I'm wondering how amenable the GP library board might be to a (preferrably public) presentation (symposium? exhibition?) on the building, on Breuer, even on Hawkins Ferry--something which might illuminate and elucidate the real de facto "heritage" here, and be a cue toward changing a few attitudes. And I'm certain there'd be regional scholars and professionals and respectable higher-ups who are up to the task.

Indeed, you might find many more friends than you realize in the preservationist state of the art (anyone contact ?)--even there, anti-modern or pro-"traditional style design" attitudes are held to be painfully parochial, naively ill-informed, or of a cranky reactionary fringe.

Jan 27, 07 8:33 pm  · 

Went and checked out the library this weekend. Many of the concerns from the board are genuine: it's crammed with stacks, it doesn't deal with some of the program well. It also needs some cleaning up: the original Breuer desk has been replaced with a laminate mess, bad carpet, furniture.

That said, it's a beautiful building. It is well scaled and detailed. The light in the main reading space is incredible (as are the Calder and Miro). Absolutely worth saving. Wrote a letter to the board today.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday.

Jan 28, 07 3:58 pm  · 
liberty bell

Wow - thanks for posting the pictures, Sheet. The building is much better than I imagined! The ceiling textures (interior and exterior) are fabulous. It's lovely.

Jan 28, 07 4:28 pm  · 

I find it most interesting, Breuer did incoporate works by both Miro and Calder in the Gagarian Houses in Litchfield. He also incoporated a Calder Sculpture at one of the Stillman Houses. Actually Calder's Home and Studio is not very far from these two homes.

In the second Gagarian Home, Breuer incoportated brick in the front entry of the house. The Brick is painted white, so one never really thinks of it as brick.

Jan 28, 07 5:19 pm  · 

Sheet, thanks, those pics are great - it's great to have current pics, the old ones are cool but these ones make it real. i agree about the textures, and they are all related- the windows, the fluorescent lights, it's all in that alternate pattern.

I wonder how the board and community in general would think about their building after a few 'cosmetic' touches. Just new carpet and nice modern furniture, and i think they would be able to see what we see now. ok, and they need more space to uncramp the current space.

Every time i see a Calder sculpture i think of the Simpsons episode where they climb onto a Calder to gain entry to a museum.

Jan 28, 07 5:58 pm  · 
rondo mogilskie

Beyond the present plans, it strikes me that GP has never--at least not in recent history--properly known how to handle what it has. Otherwise, their website might have info on Breuer, Calder, Miro, Hawkins Ferry, to enlighten the curious. (And the interior furnishings wouldn't be the present mess, either.)

And it isn't even a matter of "heritage"--it's simply about self-reflective municipal/community/civic pride. The sort of stuff that feeds school field trips; a healthy interest in "what we have", and a healthy and inherently enlightened desire to share the knowledge, and the enjoyment. Which may, in its turn, plant the seed to treasure and maintain and treat with love and care.

Instead, it's a "facility". And a "dated" facility. An old crock.

Oh, and personally, I don't mind the Ewald branch for what it is; straight middlebrow PoMo, but "honest" about it (though it would have made more sense in 1995 than 2005). In fact, I find the Woods branch more risible in how it chokes on trying to play two cards at once. (And I can just picture it as the architect's grudging bow to the library board, or whomever, rather dopily "insisting" on a "traditional style" element. If that's where their current sensibility lies, no wonder they're so wooden-headed re Breuer.)

Given that pattern of naivety, I'm even fearing the potential well-meaning liberties taken in an expansion/renovation/restoration; for instance, short-sightedly trashing the lettering. (Like the Dessau Bauhaus, this is a case where the lettering truly makes the architecture.)

Jan 28, 07 6:01 pm  · 
brian buchalski

was at the library this afternoon...very busy place. pictures to follow...

Jan 28, 07 7:13 pm  · 
brian buchalski

they had some really great puddles next to the breuer...if you look closely you can even see the central library reflected on their surface

also, it's winterfest and gumby says "it's a breuer, dammit!"

ok...more photos to come later, hopefully before bedtime tonight. they're more contextually oriented than those posted above by sheet...i'm not terribly good at shooting arch details anyhow

Jan 28, 07 8:26 pm  · 
rondo mogilskie

There's actually surprising harmony between the iced-Gumby's facial features and the GPPL lettering, I notice

Jan 28, 07 10:34 pm  · 

great pix, sheet. they do help us understand what GP has and what has been done. some unfortunate choices made along the way - surface-mounted conduit, bad fixtures, etc - but nothing that wouldn't be taken care of in a sensitive renovation.

maybe what leads someone to think of it as 'undistinguished' and 'dated facility' is the layering of these bad choices on a once crisp and clean building. good comments, rm.

Jan 29, 07 7:30 am  · 

received response to the letter sent to ms bartell.

On behalf of the Library Board, I can assure you we would be delighted at such help. You would not be stepping on any toes whatsoever. If you let Vickey Bloom know what you need, she would be glad to provide you whatever materials she has.

We are, of course, concerned about schedule. The date we can ask the public for an increase in millage to support any project we embrace is November. We are hoping to hire an architect by the end of March to begin preparing a proposal specific enough to sell to the public. But within those constraints we would be so pleased to receive the benefit of your thoughts and suggestions.

Laura Bartell

i can initiate the conversation with ms bloom, but will probably defer to jason if she can provide drawings or other files. i can host photos/jpgs on my flickr site if she's got those available.

i'll have to discuss costs with her because, while we may be volunteering our time, there would probably be some costs simply associated with getting drawings into a digital format, etc. we'll see.

so we do have a deadline of sorts! (which is good. as much as i'm into this, i don't have a bottomless amount of time for it.) if they need to hire an architect by the end of march, they'll need to advertise and solicit rfps somewhere around the beginning of march. we should be prepared to give them a collection of ideas by the end of february. maybe in the form of a document?

Jan 29, 07 8:32 am  · 

perhaps we can assist in drafting their RFP? that would be cool.

Jan 29, 07 8:55 am  · 
brian buchalski

stayed up late to montage some photographs from yesterday...i'll try to post them a bit later (noonish)

Jan 29, 07 9:01 am  · 

Glad to see that they are willing to give us some info. Question for those of you who have been there: What is the building directly to the south of the site, track storage, bathroom...?


Jan 29, 07 11:13 am  · 

wow great enthusiasm guys and gals.....

Thanks for the puddle puddles...hehe, did wanna say that.

Sheet those pics are great, thank you. esp. for those of us that aren't close enough to visit on a whim.


Im still in (but agree with steven on the whole time table issue). Great to know we do have some time restrictions.

Jan 29, 07 11:43 am  · 

also, what are the buildings to the north of the library? [magenta].. probably dreaming, but it would be nice to have an extension fronting the old library.

...and.... that parking lot to the northeast of the library [blue]- guessing it belongs to that big building further north [yellow]... what is that?

i like the idea of burying the parking underneath the baseball fields, you could do the same under the parking lot to the north- but how feasible are these alternatives? would the school or the big mistery building be willing to share their lot [is there some sort of agreement that could be reached?]

Jan 29, 07 12:27 pm  · 

[library = red]

Jan 29, 07 12:42 pm  · 

looks like that's several properties across the street, aml. and good, small-business type uses that we probably wouldn't encourage displacing.

from sheet's pix, look thru the wdws:

Jan 29, 07 12:43 pm  · 

I just found out there is an organization called Preservation Wayne and another called the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (I don't remember if the latter was mentioned in the initial article) and both are working on this issue. It would be good to loop them in, I would think.

By the way, nice comments Rondo. I think you underscore a fundamental point--all issues of taste aside, and even ignoring for a moment that this is a very good building by a very important figure, its preservation should be a concern on the basis of its cultural place in this suburb. Though the library board may feel it is not distinguished, and we feel it is beautiful, the bigger issue may be simply that this is a cultural marker. This is an argument that they should understand as an organization in the public interest, even if they don't agree with expert opinions of its architectural quality.

One more note. I think we should be careful in how we discuss the process this building might undergo. Harvard did a "renovation" but not a "restoration" of Aalto's Woodbury Poetry Room over the summer. Though the changes were small, in replacing Aalto furniture with other "sensitive" designs they ruined the "whole art" effect of his design. I think the Breuer library may encompass some of the same territory--with the art commissions integral to the work and the spaces so specifically designed for certain types of use, I wonder if he considered its design a "whole art." If this is the case, and changing some aspects would ruin the entire composition, we should make sure to parse carefully the difference between "restorations" and "renovations." Using the latter term might open the door to changes that aren't respectful of the finer points. I think this is an example where gutting the building (which no one has suggested) and retaining only the shell would be a false solution. But I realize that they need more space. I really like the idea of an underground solution which wouldn't disturb the Breuer building and would perhaps similarly define our contemporary period in its design.

I am super impressed by the level of discussion of this entire forum. Everyone is so thoughtful and I agree the "grassrootsness" of the whole endeavor is impressive.

Jan 29, 07 12:58 pm  · 

amazing guys.

Jan 29, 07 1:16 pm  · 
brian buchalski i ambled around the perimeter of the site yesterday & took a ton of photos, a bunch of which are montages so that you can get a better sense of the surrounding context. these are reduced to fit on the thread but if you do the right-click thing with your mouse you can go to the full size jpegs that i've posted elsewhere.

looking at the library from across it's most prominent intersection

west facade of the central library and looking down the street towards the high school

west & south facades of the central library

the grosse pointe high school south of our library

an addition to the high school

looking across the baseball field towards the south & east facades of the library

looking down kercheval towards the east side of the library

the library from the other side of kercheval

again, from across kercheval, but closer

similar to the previous view...maybe redundant

the buildings across the street to the north of the central library. from the left: a raymond james investment office, a brooks borthers, a national city bank branch and then residential across the street from there

same group of buildings as montage011 but shot from the other side

this is looking west down kercheval from the local business district. if you look carefully, you can see that the library is down the hill and the road turns a bit to the right. consequently any addition to the rear of the building, especially a tall addition will figure prominently in this view. by the way, their definition of "hill" is definitely very's more of a gentle slope and certainly nothing like you might be thinking if you are form other parts of the world

rear of the building shot from the corner of the present parking lot

i've got more photos too. i'll do some additional editing tonight and try to get them to the ftp site soon. thanks for your patience, i've been working on these as quickly as possible.

Jan 29, 07 1:16 pm  · 

thanks, hckybg.
i'll send a note to the following today.

michigan historic preservation network:

preservation wayne:

anybody else, feel free to pile on. i've gotten some names of others already involved as well. we'll see what we can learn from them.

Jan 29, 07 1:21 pm  · 

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