SAVE ME! Grosse Pointe Central Library, designed by Marcel Breuer (1953) - slated for demolition


Design Charrette: February 7-21

Project: Grosse Pointe Central Library,
expansion and renovation
Grosse Pointe, MI
Architect: Marcel Breuer, 1953.

The community of Grosse Pointe, Michigan has a cultural treasure that is in danger of being demolished - the Central Library, designed by noted architect and educator Marcel Breuer. Such stories are becoming commonplace across the country. Modern architectural gems are slowly disappearing despite the protests of those who recognize their value as part of our shared twentieth century artistic and cultural heritage.

But there is a chance to save this local landmark from demolition! The Modern Architecture Protection Agency (MAPA) was organized by a group of concerned Archinect members with the express purpose of demonstrating that design ingenuity can lead to solutions that accommodate contemporary needs while respecting modern landmarks. To this end, we have organized a Design Charrette that will show the Grosse Pointe Library’s Board of Directors that imaginative solutions can solve their programmatic needs while saving the Breuer-designed facility from demolition.

“…the library board plans to demolish the Grosse Pointe Central Library and replace it with a newer, bigger structure, despite efforts by some to save the original.
The dispute is unusual on several fronts. Unlike most endangered landmarks, the Central Library isn't a neoclassical or Romanesque edifice from the 1800s, but a modernist work built in 1953.”

Icon is worth saving. Grosse Pointe Central Library is slated for razing,
Detroit Free Press, January 20, 2007.

Other recent articles on the proposed demolition:
Mid-Century Library to be Demolished
Grosse Pointe library hopes to replace its aging branch
Additional information on the current status of the project, the library's history and Marcel Breuer can be found on MAPA's Wiki

This Design Charrette is open to all interested parties, is noncompetitive, and begins immediately.

MAPA’s primary goal is to gather ideas and proposals that demonstrate the existing library's viability and leverage its unique design and its place in the history of Grosse Pointe. Ideas should be imaginative but also realistic—the best ideas will represent creative possibilities while also serving as a “feasibility study” that the library board can appreciate. Images, narratives, and numbers are all welcome. Submissions will be presented to the library board on February 26th, at their monthly board meeting. Presentation boards will also be displayed at the Ewald Branch Library on March 1st and 2nd, after which time they will be exhibited at another location within the Pointes (to be determined with the help of AIA Detroit‘s Urban Priorities Committee).

Archinect will also host an online gallery of the submissions.

Interested in participating? Here are the format requirements:
Participants should submit their proposals as one or more 11x17 image files (landscape format, .jpg or .tif only please).
There is no limit to the number of 11x17 boards per entry.
There is no limit to the number of entries per participant.
All boards should include the standard title block. Please update with personal information (using Futura font). The standard title block should be located on the right side of each sheet, oriented vertically.
Individual emails should not exceed 10 mb in size.
Submissions should be emailed to on or before midnight (Pacific Standard Time), February 21, 2007.

Summary of Program:
Recommended program square footage: 53,747
Current building gross square footage: 18,740
Addition size to meet recommendation: approx 35,000

Program components:
12,900 sf for book stacks
600 sf for periodicals
2200 sf for audio/visual
2000 sf for public network access
4500 sf of reading/seating
7600 sf of Staff work space
1600 sf program/meeting room
460 sf conference/board room
725 sf storytime room
525 sf computer training room
6625 sf Multi-purpose/special use space
13,249 Non-assigned support spaces
750 for Receiving Dock/garage

Parking proposals to support programmed space.

Project Documents:
1 - detailed program narrative (PDF, 17 pages)
2 - detailed program, square footage requirements (PDF, 33 pages)
3 - site photos (folder w/ JPEGs)
4 - site photo montages (folder w/ JPEG's)
5 - site survey (folder w/2 CAD files)
6 - drawings of 1953 building (folder w/ 7 PDFs)

Physical Address of building (not to be used as contact information):
10 Kercheval Ave, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236

*This thread is intended solely as a venue for questions regarding the design charrette, and will be moderated to stay on message.

This effort is supported by:
The Grosse Pointe Library's Board of Directors

Brought to you by:

Feb 8, 07 1:53 am


Feb 8, 07 2:40 am
liberty bell

Can we have some expansion of the "Parking to support programmed space" requirement? As parking is clearly a big issue for them (as noted in the other thread about this topic, can we get a rough idea how much parking is actually needed, or at least a base estimate to shoot for: a ratio of 1:300 (1 parking space for each 300 sf of usable building square footage) was suggested. Does this seem like a reasonable amount to shoot for? With suggested other solutions should the site not support that amount - mass transit, off-site, etc.?

Feb 8, 07 9:53 am

there are municipality guidelines for parking, but they seemed extremely high, something like 1:200sf. we might need to look into the potential for variances in grosse pointe.

also to be explored: once we decide a variance is possible, the library's assessment of their actual need.

i'll try to follow-up.

Feb 8, 07 9:57 am
vado retro

the site now has 22 parking spaces. 1:300 would require 166 spaces which is undoable.

Feb 8, 07 9:57 am
Chili Davis

Can we get the thread title to be in red on the discussions page?

Feb 8, 07 10:23 am

bravo indeed....(its quite early here on the west coast) but I see we are up! sweet.

as for the parking is there a possibility of relaxed approach by the city for this issue (as opposed to a variance which requires lobbying)??? just asking, and Steven if you have some contacts at the city, possibly also enquire about the sharing of parking with those lots that were mentioned in the original thread, please!

Feb 8, 07 10:56 am

no go on the red title, Chili, for a few reasons related to html repercussions elsewhere on the site.

The banner does a good job directing attention here, and the thread sticks to the top of the discussion list.

Also, these types of questions/concerns (I'm sure we will have more) should be posted to the initial breuer thread, leaving this thread for queries about the building program, submission criteria, and other aspects of the charrette.


Feb 8, 07 10:57 am
Chili Davis


Agreed. Is someone moderating this thread to delete off-topic responses?

Feb 8, 07 11:00 am


Feb 8, 07 11:13 am

vado, I haven't gotten any further in the project brief, but is it legally possible to actually build a parking facility two storeis high on top of the parking lot?

Feb 8, 07 11:17 am

Max height is 55' per zoning, existing bldg is 24'-11.5".

Feb 8, 07 11:29 am
vado retro

open parking garages of type IV construction can be four tiers high and have 50,000 sq.ft. per tier. of course, there isn't room for that.

Feb 8, 07 11:52 am

does anyone know what the building next door is? the institutional looking one in the lot adjacent.

Feb 8, 07 12:05 pm

huge congrats for making this happen - and at such a high level in such a short amount of time.

Feb 8, 07 12:24 pm

John, to which side are you talking, cause there's the ballfield to one side. (do you mean across the street)

From our discussions, and chili's visit (I think it was chili) the bldgs directly in front are small 'mom & pop' businesses that line the street with some residential thrown in.

(if Im not mistaken - anyone else know exactly)
Chili, Sheets, puddles??

Feb 8, 07 12:30 pm

yeah, I was looking at the wrong thing.

Feb 8, 07 12:33 pm

From the original thread:

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

and correction it was puddles (thanks mate) for our montages and discriptions. Hope that helps john

Feb 8, 07 12:35 pm

Thoughts about Parking: "Don't let the tail wag the dog!"

Master Plan Grosse Pointe

"The Village

Encourage a lively social enviromental and economic viable downtown with a wide variety of uses in a pedisterian oriented unified setting,
with shared parking."

Page 49 Grosse Pointe Master Plan

See Page 83 for mention of parking structures.

Feb 8, 07 12:59 pm

we need to get as many boards to that meeting as possible. Make them realize that there are solutions to be had

Feb 8, 07 1:00 pm

Although this site references and area of Grosse Point as "The Village" I think is should apply to any Civic Buildings. We are
planning for the future and we all have a pretty good idea it will
include alot better use of our resources.

Feb 8, 07 2:28 pm

Great stuff...that is an extensive amount of information compiled so quickly. It will be great seeing the displays in the gallery

Feb 8, 07 3:14 pm

I hope they don't commit this atrocity. Someday they'll regret it.

Feb 8, 07 3:24 pm
Feb 8, 07 5:34 pm

May I make a suggestion?

Considering the small format (11 x 17) and the fact that these will be presented to the Library Board, do you think it would make sense for us to create a standard "title block" type of graphic into which we can insert any important information and then put it on our presentation boards?

I am just thinking that many of us have graphic styles and we always want our presentations to look good, but I don't want the Board to get caught up in the graphics, but to focus on the content.

Does that make sense? Since the whole thing is noncompetitive, I didn't think it would be a big deal.

Feb 8, 07 6:54 pm

yes, I was thinking the same thing and concur with DubK. Let's make it as slimline as possible so that the 'image' can come through clearly.
Maybe rationalist would like a crack at it?

Feb 8, 07 7:01 pm

i think that the titleblock should include 'architecture sucks' somewhere on it

Feb 8, 07 7:44 pm

liberty-bell... mass transit in grosse pointe is not really a viable option (have you ever been to Detroit?) - I think promoting pedestrian access to the site is a better sell for the local neighborhood - especially in terms of alleviating some of the parking.

are they planning on using some of the adjacent field parking for library use? is below-grade parking an option?

what are "non-assigned support spaces?" and why is this number so high?

I think the number of parking will be much lower - "support space" probably doesn't count towards parking - and since this is a library - the number of users at any time will be much lower that typical retail requirements.

I'm interested to see what you guys come up with.


Feb 9, 07 1:40 am

[ahem] and we're interested to see what you come up with, toasteroven!

Feb 9, 07 7:34 am
liberty bell

Exactly toasteroven - what can you show us? Sounds like you are familiar with the site, good!

And yeah I haven't been to GP in about 14 years, but of course a People Mover there would be a disaster. I do think it's important that proposals try to propose interesting, alternative solutions - maybe a People Mover is bad, but a shuttle bus isn't an impossibility?

Feb 9, 07 8:56 am

amen...Liberty bell.....a hybrid shuttle

Feb 9, 07 9:02 am

below-grade parking is an option.

...(5) Parking Structure: below street level with 62-65 spaces, 9-10 foot ceiling able to accommodate full-size vans, a well- lit, comfortable environment with easy access to the Library.


this, and a wealth of other background information, is available on MAPA's wiki, which is linked in the original post.

Feb 9, 07 9:33 am
vado retro

if someone is designing a title block please make sure to include the libraries logo in the design.

Feb 9, 07 9:37 am


OK, is someone designing a title block? Are we in agreement that this is a good idea?

Feb 9, 07 10:33 am

Maybe you should specified the format of the title block, since some people will make autocad presentations, others will use microstation, other will use indesign and what not depending on the way they work....
It's a tough job to design soemthing coherent that matches all of the possible format.
Maybe it should be designed in any cad program, outputed as a raster image (ie tiff or jpeg for instance) to be inserted in any program?

Feb 9, 07 10:48 am

I think that's a good idea French. Actually it could also be designed in another program, just as long as it's a tiff or jpg format so that it can them be just placed as an image/raster image in cadd or microstation.

So DubK r you working on the title block/logo thing??
(did you volunteer)??

Feb 9, 07 10:56 am

a good observation from jafindler on the original thread:

Food for thought:

From my experience at the site, the most visible elevation is not the one facing the street, but the one to the east. You see it prominently coming down the hill from Kercheval because of the openness of the ball field. Right now that elevation is very plain, a brick wall with staggered slit windows, and I think has contributed to the perception by some in the community of the building as a modern eyesore. As much as it seems any addition should feature the original building, I believe these side elevations, particularly the one to the east, are critical to enhancing the image of the building.

Feb 9, 07 11:25 am

I will volunteer. I am all about organization. However I would like some clarification from you all on nomenclature, etc.

For instance, this is what I am thinking:

-Title of project
-"February 2006"
-Name and location of designer (I think it would be neat for them to see that we are from everywhere!)
-Submission #, if applicable
-Site location
-Organization representing????

That last one is tricky....are we all a member of MAPA or is this something that Archinect is officially supporting? Perhaps this was covered somewhere and I missed it.... Of course I would like the senior editors to weigh in on this as well.

Feb 9, 07 12:03 pm

PS. Final titleblock will be a JPEG, resolution to be determined. JPEGs should work in every program.

Feb 9, 07 12:04 pm

in terms of inclusion of the archinect logo?

Feb 9, 07 12:07 pm

i believe the answer is yes, John. Thoughts?

otherwise, i agree w/vado re: using the library's logo.

Feb 9, 07 12:23 pm

I believe, unless paul thinks otherwise, that we would like to be included on the title block, but not in a way that overstates the work of MAPA.

Feb 9, 07 12:44 pm

steven - so, you want me to do all the work? ;-)

Liberty Bell - I grew up around there - I know that building. I was just in the area a couple months ago...

Does this building have an existing basement? from the looks of the drawings it appears to be slab on grade.... after a brief chat with the parking expert in my office (we do a lot of retrofitting of existing structures), the only way you can keep the building and do underground parking is if there is built structure below grade which can be converted. Otherwise it's economically unfeasible.


Feb 9, 07 12:45 pm

in addition, if I have time I will submit a proposal too. but I sort of feel that there should be a mid-review so there isn't too much redundancy in the schemes...? what do the rest of you think?

Feb 9, 07 12:47 pm

the parking doesn't have to go beneath the existing building. that would likely be quite difficult to pull off (or as you stated, 'economically unfeasible'). It could very well go beneath the existing parking lot, or beneath the adjacent baseball field.

Feb 9, 07 12:49 pm

I was looking at the Google Aerial and I was wondering, maybe they
should purchase the lot across the street and create some parking

LB.....It looks like the edge of, "The Village" Business district is about six blocks away. Wouldn't a Shuttle make alot of sense,
between the schools, library and the primary business area.

Feb 9, 07 1:04 pm

Damn I'd like to do it too, only I'm busy as hell right now. When is the deadline again?

Feb 9, 07 1:06 pm

toasteroven: if you look at this drawing:


you'll see there is a boiler room below grade that could perhaps be connected to an underground parking below the the current parking lot.... i'm not positive though if this would work and where you would put the current boiler room. the boiler room plan is here.

Feb 9, 07 1:09 pm

Current building has underground construction-a boiler room, not much room to convert. As stated above, parking under the existing parking and neighboring fields seems much more feasible, from way out here on the left coast.

Feb 9, 07 1:16 pm
vado retro

to any and all of the illustrious title block designers. a quick look at an 11x17 sheet with the existing floorplan at 1":20' + a doubling of existing fp to account for a new footprint does not leave much room on the short side of the sheet. i would recommend putting any title information on the right side of the sheet running vertically.

Feb 9, 07 1:59 pm

I just noticed the layout issue too Vado, beat me to it!

Feb 9, 07 2:27 pm

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