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The Dennos Museum Center

michigan modern: an architectural legacy

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020 — JANUARY 31, 2020

Michigan Modern: An Architechtural Legacy CoverThis exhibit celebrates Michigan’s incredible modern architectural design history from 1928 through 2012. It is comprised of over 50 photographs by James Haefner primarily for the State Historic Preservation Office as part of their Michigan Modern Project and featured in the book by State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway titled Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy. Several additional photographs from Mr. Haefner’s archives are included. The buildings photographed were selected to represent the best modern architecture in all areas of the state focusing on the work of Michigan architects as well as internationally known architects who completed commissions in Michigan.

Michigan’s architecture is broad in style and rich in significance. The confluence of industry, education and architecture in Michigan in the early twentieth century put the state at the center of the development of Modern architecture. The exhibition includes images of Michigan masterworks of modern architects such as Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Minoru Yamasaki, Alexander Girard, Walter Dorwin Teague, George Nelson, Kevin Roche, Robert Metcalf , William Muschenheim, William Kessler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alden B. Dow, Perceval Goodman, Gunnar Birkerts, Oskar Stonorov, Dirk Lohan, Robert Schwartz, William Wesley Peters, The Architects Collaborative, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier. The tradition of architectural innovation and excellence continued into the twenty-first century represented by photographs of buildings designed by Anderson and Anderson, Steven Sivak and Zaha Hadid.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically beginning with the work of Eliel Saarinen at Cranbrook and concluding with the acclaimed Eli and Edith Broad Art Museum in East Lansing designed by Zaha Hadid. These photographs and the book continue the work of the State Historic Preservation Office in studying and documenting Modernism in Michigan. Known as the Michigan Modern Project, it began in 2008 with extensive research and context development together with identification of significant Modern architecture in the state. This led to a dozen or so listings of Modern resources in the National Register of Historic Places together with the elevation of three properties to National Historic Landmark status: the Eero Saarinen designed General Motors Technical Center in Warren, the Mies van der Rohe designed Lafaette Park housing complex in Detroit, and Minoru Yamasaki’s McGregor Memorial Conference Center in Detroit. The Eliel Saarinen designed Cranbrook and the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio were already listed as National Historic Landmarks. The project revealed and documented the significant role Michigan played in the development of Modern design and received national attention.