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


dammson, vado, josh- thanks for the setbacks info. i'm browsing through all this just now. hope to have some time over the weekend to do my own little charrette.

wonderk, cool title block- it'll make the whole presentation look a lot bettter.

Feb 13, 07 3:28 pm

good to know, thanks Josh....
Dammson, take note mate...that means we have free reign wooohoo...

I kid of course!

Feb 13, 07 3:48 pm
vado retro

there are certainly property lines on the site plan i downloaded.

Feb 13, 07 3:58 pm

The property lines on the dwg seperate lot 187 from lot...187. The internal property lines are a negotiated boundary between the library and the school, not a legal demarcation seperating one lot from the other. Thus my expectation of wiggle room with the rear and interior setback.

Feb 13, 07 4:20 pm

Grosse Pointe is our palette if we have free rein......ya hoo da looo!

Feb 13, 07 4:25 pm
brian buchalski

yeah, as josh points out there is a rather ambigous relationship between the library & school because until about fifteen years ago they were part of the same entity. that is, the library used to be part of the school system.

also, you are perfectly welcome to "break any rules" if you feel you have reason to do so. the hope is to offer the library ideas about what they could do and should do...not necessarily what they have to do since they've already been told that by others.

issues such as parking & setback requirements are ultimately a decision for the community to make. offer them something good and they may be compelled to alter those rules. they are negotiable...but you have to build your case.

Feb 13, 07 4:59 pm

Thanks, aml.

Also, to add to what puddles said, people are much more inclined to break rules to get things done if what they see not only works, but inspires them. Remember that this is just a charrette and we don't have a lot of time to delve into the program, but we can always wow them with our presentation.

Basically what I'm saying is, bring the pretty.

Feb 13, 07 5:49 pm

echoing puddles and wonderk, i think the rearyard and sideyard setbacks will be moving targets in almost any scheme the library pursues. it's great to know them (cheers to vado) so that you know what you're getting into, but the board's meeting minutes have already acknowledged that they would have to push back into the land behind the library a little. shotput/discus and that storage shed are not the most difficult things to relocate. besides, moving that direction sounds minimal if you remember that they have considered building underground parking under the ballfield and then restoring the ballfield!

beautiful title block, wonderk! looks all official-ish! i fully expect that some people will miss that this is an addition to the format so some of us may need to pitch in to do some photoshopping at the end in order to get the title on some of the images we receive.

i'll let everybody know when i get in to the office if i've had any new correspondence from the library.

Feb 14, 07 6:53 am
vado retro

relocate the shotput field. not on your life. in highschool the shotputters used to use me as a practice shot. or was it a practice put...

Feb 14, 07 12:19 pm

i just received the following via email from vickey bloom, director of the grosse pointe libraries:

Just a couple of clarifications as I am reading the charrette comments.

There is definite land lines between the library and the school. We own only what is shown on the survey which is the land under the building and the parking lot. Once you hit the fence line that is school property. We are hoping to discuss getting the jut of land along the parking lot that would square off our property.

We also hope to discuss whether the school would let us buy/lease land under the softball field for underground parking. That is what Mr. Mumby
[Fanning/Howey architect]recommended as a way to save the Breuer building and would give roughly 140 spaces under the field. We don't know what the answer to that question will be.

i was aware that the library had more or less said this before, but i also didn't want to fix assumptions in the minds of charretters, hoping that some of you designers might come up with alternative answers to those already considered.

Feb 15, 07 9:36 am

Somehow the idea of putting a concentration of particulate and CO2 pollution underneath a field where children will be breathing heavily does not seem to be a great idea. There is mounting evidence that the extra fine PM in car exhaust is especially bad for young lungs. Any thoughts?

Feb 15, 07 1:01 pm
Sarah Hamilton

I'm sure the dirt and grass would filter anything that managed to seep up through the concrete. But I could be wrong. I've never really thought about researching such a matter.

Feb 15, 07 1:43 pm

there is always the idea that this could be a very good notion/opportunity for a "green" parking lot to go with that revamped ballfield, no?

Feb 15, 07 2:15 pm

I just now have taken the opportunity to look at this building everyone wants to save. One question, why?

I support re-use over demolition for green reasons. But I can't support saving this place for its architectural design. Aside from the famous name architect, it seems like quite banal standard 1950's architecture.

Feb 15, 07 3:04 pm

squirrelly, you read my mind. :o)

Feb 15, 07 3:05 pm

aquapura, variations on that discussion occur elsewhere:



This thread is directed at this effort. Please question it elsewhere.

Also, here is the original thread that spawned this effort.

Feb 15, 07 3:51 pm

Nice DubK.....maybe we can combine our "green" idea efforts....lemme know. (btw: are you planning on charetting?)

Feb 15, 07 4:10 pm

I thought I would share this response I received from the president of the library board, I had sent out a few e-mails to the "friends of the library" and the "library board". she has some vaild concerns.

Dear Mr. Phalen,

Thank you for your e-mail. I can assure you, any decision to demolish our Central branch will not be made lightly. However, the building was constructed in 1953, when libraries were very different than they are today. They had no computers, no books on tape, no audio-visual materials, no program rooms, no teen areas, very small children's collections. We have been struggling with a lack of space for many years. Each time we purchase a book, we have to throw one out because we have no room for it. The small second floor of our building is not handicapped accessible. Indeed, some of our collection is also not accessible from a wheelchair because the bookshelves are too close together. We have explored other solutions to the problem. We have consulted with two architectural firms about whether we could modify or expand the existing building to add more space. We have been told that we could not get much space from such modifications and they would not be feasible anyway unless we could add more parking and we have no room for more parking. We have looked to see if we could find another site in our service area to build a new library, but unfortunately Grosse Pointe is heavily built up and sufficient space is just not available. We have not made a final decision; there are groups of architects working as we speak to see if they can come up with other solutions to our space problems. However, if we are not able to meet our space needs without demolition, we must put the library needs of our community first. I would hope that you would agree that libraries are at least as important to a community's culture as architecture.

Thank you again for your thoughts.

Laura Bartell
President, Board of Trustees
Grosse Pointe Public Library

Now, with that said I think that the whoever the architects are that have been consulting them are just fishing for a job rather than a cultural responsibility in preserving a architectural icon.

I am hoping that some of your charrette processes go vertical, we have had several solutions in other renovation/additions down here that were site sensitive and needed a vertical solution. I have had thousands of ideas running through my head...sorry I am coming late to the table but I hope to help the effort as much as possible, oh, did I mention that my brother in law is the editor of the Eccentric Papers? power of the press might help.

Thought I would share their ideas and thoughts to help you with your la revolution

Feb 15, 07 10:00 pm

i support the vertical idea.

on the other note;
i think proposals might suggest new ways for library designs.
for example; i don't see a necessity for containing the books in the library space. bookshelves in todays libraries are esentially storage spaces which could be located underground, in a detached building, in a warehouse and so on.
this way, prime library space is used for reading them, or doing a researc on a table, computer browsing etc. i think storing books in side the main library is a waste of prime space and makes finding books even harder sometimes because staff shortage on stackers and people picking up books and putting them back in a wrong shelf. sometimes a book put on a two shelf down might be there for weeks making it impossible to find when needed.
anyway, most librarians, as the one in above post, ms. bartell, addresses the change in the uses and needs of the new libraries and immediately demands more space.
i think, perhaps, the new library requires less space, but somebody really have to illustrate it well as to how so..
i think solutions like these are really necessary instead of just simply providing more racks.

Feb 15, 07 10:22 pm
liberty bell

That's actually interesting, Orhan, to think that libraries that used to have inaccessible stacks served only by trained staff fetching books as directed by patrons could again be the way of the library in the future. This could certainly be true if an Amazon-like presentation of a few pages of the book could be found on a computer screen in the library: browse the collection online, then tell the librarian what you want.

However I do think there is a bit of adventure in browsing the stacks yourself, finding a book you might not have looked up, but due to it's adjacency to the one you were looking for it catches your eye. Maybe the fiction books are better suited for this?

Feb 15, 07 10:29 pm

orhan, i do agree with you on the modern library spacial requirements, however there is that classic book that should be held rather than viewed on the computer. until the technology is one that supports the hands free viewing of a book (think..."Time Machine, yes the recent cheesy movie) we still have spacial needs.

Feb 15, 07 10:35 pm

here, here Liberty, most of the book i own were the ones next to the book i was looking for...

Feb 15, 07 10:36 pm

architorturealist, this is more or less the same email that many of us have received from the beginning. it's quite useful, in my opinion, that you post it on this thread now, for a number of reasons. for one, we can't lose sight of the primary argument we are attempting to defeat. they have a well articulated position.

additionally, reading that response this evening reminds me that a major aspect of this effort has to be encouraging the library's Board to circulate the RFP to a number of architecture firms that have demonstrated the ability to invent within constraints.

Feb 15, 07 11:28 pm

Has anyone suggested bringing Detroit’s "amazing" people mover into town? Parking issue solved.

Right. Forgot. That would bring the "wrong" kinds of people into this perfect little community.

I love the merit behind what people are trying to do here but knowing the 'type' of people you are up against, I'm imagining it to end in disappointment.

What can I say other than I'm a pessimist.

Feb 16, 07 11:34 am

Thanks Thirfty, cause it just spawned an that Miss Liberty Bell touched on way back in our original thread, that being:

is there an option to have the current street (do we have anything close to a civil plan, or a dimensioned street/site plan) with dedicated spaces in front of the library to alleviate some of the parking issue? What i am envisioning is similar parking "stalls" (probably at a 45) that "scale down" the street, hence making it more pedestrian, and occupying the street. Similar to what you would see in those small town streets/roads where there is possibly one lane with street parking on both sides?

I don't know if any of you thought of this as an idea.

Orhan, I think you brought up a great point, and even the discussion that followed with the notion of staff accessing the books, but I also am one who enjoys the adventures of self discovery (of books that is). However, one solution would be (could be) to have the "stacks" located in a space (say underground) and the main floor for all the accessible "activity" space that the new library needs?? Is this viable? Similarly to the systems that are used in Universities (where you find a book and have to then walk to another location to pick it up).

Feb 16, 07 12:17 pm
vado retro

Squirrelmeister, there is street parking in front of the libary.

Feb 16, 07 2:05 pm

thanks Vado...I guess I have to see if our site plan or some dwg has this shown, as possible opportunity to re-work it.

just a thought...

Feb 16, 07 3:54 pm
vado retro

the parking is shown on the site plan.

Feb 16, 07 4:36 pm
bill h

Wow! I just came across this site- a friend forwarded it to me this evening.

I am the local Grosse Pointe Farms architect and Historic District Commissioner who approached the Library Board in December and asked them to reconsider the demolition plans for the Central Library. I also gave the interview to the Detroit Free Press last month on the topic.

The efforts underway on this website to explore alternate scenarios are remarkable and I am awed by the passion you display for this precious mid-century structure. Thanks in advance for your hard work!

I have also heard from numerous folks around the country and local community who are concerned about pending demolition plans. For many, the heritage of the building's creation is not apparent from its modest appearance. When they learn of Breuer's pedigree they reconsider prior un-informed opinions and support the preservation efforts.

I am sorry that I will be out of town the week that the charrette submissions will be presented- good luck, and thanks again!

-William Hartman, AIA LEED AP

Feb 16, 07 8:54 pm

Mr. Hartman,

Thank you for coming here and posting your comments regarding the efforts put forth by our community. Your gesture I believe will only motivate those of us participating in trying to save and provide alternate solutions to the Breuer library. I can only hope, that the possible solutions provided for the Grosse Pointe community indicate that there are options other than destroying another work by a modern master, that will satisfy everyone in Grosse Pointe. Please come back and comment or give us updates on how the efforts to save the library are progressing.



Feb 17, 07 3:28 am
vado retro

i am at the office on a snowy day prepping for our charrette phase II. ms. liberty is on the way and quite a trooper since she is under the weather. fresh coffee brewing etc...just took another look at the google map of the site. god there must be a hundred empty parking spaces around the building.

Feb 17, 07 1:08 pm

vado drop an aspirin in when its brewing...medicinal value!

Feb 18, 07 12:49 am

A quick thought ran through my head as I was catching up on the development of the charette. Importantly we've been talking about preserving the building by satisfying the growing needs of the library through the design and construction of a suitable extension|addition.


But. If in our individual proposals we change the original function of the library by say letting it only exist as a reading room, or something else isn't that changing the building as well and potentially diminishing its architectural value?

And. I am not attempting to open the bags on people's proposals but has anyone considered that the library addition|extension exists solely as a supplement to the existing? That the original retains original function & form?

reference: How buildings learn, et al

Feb 18, 07 12:52 am
brian buchalski

i now we're nearing the deadline, but i've managed to do some more research today and just wanted to share a few things with the rest of you.

since parking and setbacks both seem to be issues, it should probably be pointed out that there is some precedence for variances here in grosse pointe farms. the 1987 proposal (which failed to win a public vote for financing) included variances on both issue.

firstly, setbacks: in the 1987 proposal, the architects were allowed to encroach upon the 25 foot setback on the fisher road side of the property for the length of their addition to the rear of the building. they were allowed to come up to 5 feet from the existing sidewalk. it might also be worth pointing out that many of the buildings on the "hill" are built right up to the sidewalk.

secondly, parking: again, in the 1987 proposal the library was granted a variance and allowed to proceed with only 48 parking spaces provided in their plans. also, i have recently learned that the library actually has access to 14 of the parking spaces in the lot adjacent to the softball field (east of the library from the aerial images), not just the 2 spots that i had indicated previously from the image with the sign. apparently the additional spots are on the other side of the lot and not as easily seen when pulling into it as the first two with the sign are. additionally, the library has access to a handful of parking spaces (twelve, i think) across the street in what is know as the richard lot. this is the lot to the northeast of our site and on the north side of kercheval.

Feb 18, 07 3:07 am

I don't mean for this to sound pretentious, but are you guys putting all of your "letters" behind your names on your submissions?

Feb 18, 07 8:09 pm

Don't know if this has been addressed:

WonderK, if there is time, can you embed the library's logo into the title block illustrator file? If not, it's fine.


Feb 18, 07 10:14 pm

I sent the library logo along with the drawing logo when I sent it in, because I thought that might be a problem. I could embed it and send it again, although it's the same size and shape as the one in the JPEG.

Sorry. You know how it is when you get to working on your own computer, you think, oh this is fine, and then you forget about things like file management and what not.

Feb 18, 07 11:58 pm
brian buchalski

no letters behind my name...ever. and i just typed this with my lefthand because i'm eating popcorn with my lefthand.

Feb 19, 07 12:02 am

WonderK, it's alright. I used the logo from the jpeg. Thanks!

Feb 19, 07 6:55 am

DubK, because of the concerns brought up before about our involvement and professional affiliations and or liability....I suppose it's up to the individual to place certain accreditation and or affiliations behind your name.

Most of us (or at least just me) don't have any letters but those that make up my name, so that's all i'll use.


Feb 19, 07 10:53 am

i guess i should say i am a little surprised that there have not been any posts of design possibilities and subsequent critiques with regard to the submissions. i wish i could have had the time to dedicate to a submission, but would have like to seen some ideas and possibly contribute that way...maybe it's still early?

Feb 20, 07 7:02 am

it's not early, ken, but it's been a scramble (i bet) for most of us. i'll have trouble getting mine looking presentable for tomorrow's midnight deadline as it is!

we sure hoped that there would be a chance to critique each other, but it was not to be. the timeline for the library to issue the rfp and hire an architect is too short.

Feb 20, 07 7:20 am
vado retro

its the 11th hour broheem!

Feb 20, 07 9:26 am

wholly crap we have to have it in today?? shit!!! (sorry)
what's the time does it "have" to be in by??

sorry, as steven has stated, I've gotten overwhelmed at work this week (and it's only tuesday).

will still attempt to submit something....just need to know when is the absolute deadline (actual hour).

Feb 20, 07 11:03 am
vado retro

before midnite tomorrow. however, with a job there aint too much time left. plus, you can guarantee something will get f'd up.

Feb 20, 07 11:08 am

I know what you mean....i shall do my best, thanks VADO!!
Wish me some luck.....

Feb 20, 07 11:15 am
liberty bell

vado, how are you feeling today? I'm still sick but definitely up (excited, even!) for our late-night slog to the finish.

Feb 20, 07 11:55 am


in this photo, you can see the librarian's desk area is not a double height space. but in the second floor plans, this area is marked as 'upper part of lobby', with a balcony behind-. it seems in the plans that it's a double height space. am i reading this correctly? is this something that was changed afterwards, or not done according to the plans? does anybody know?

Feb 20, 07 2:55 pm
liberty bell

I would guess those glass panels were installed later to mitigate sound between the main floor and what had to become expanded administration space above - but that's just a guess - anyone else?

Feb 20, 07 3:02 pm

lb, sounds good, but the way i'm reading the plans that area above the reference desk should be empty/ double height space....making all that 'niche' a later addition? the ceiling seems to continue with the same treatment as the reading room... the balcony in the plans is further back, aligned with the brick wall in the back of the reference desk.

Feb 20, 07 3:34 pm

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