Fewer cities in USA have a history as rich and tumultuous as Detroit. It is a city with declining population and abandoned buildings but still somehow maintains its status of an important cultural center. It has arguably the largest surviving collection of 19th and 20th century buildings designed by some of the most prominent architects of that time.

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Detroit was deemed as the “City of Design” in 2015 by UNESCO and was the first city to receive this title. Also known as “Paris of the Midwest”, it has one of the most recognizable skylines in the world with art deco skyscrapers to gothic churches and historic monuments. Here are 10 buildings which represent the architecture of Detroit-

1. One Detroit Center

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Designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, Ally Detroit Center formerly known as One Detroit center is a 43-storey office building reaching up to the height of 619 feet, making it one of the tallest office buildings in Michigan. Known for its postmodern design, the building has neo-gothic spires which blend seamlessly with the city’s historic skyline.

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2. Renaissance Center

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Built as an effort to lift up the city’s economy, Renaissance Center is a commercial complex of seven structures located on the Detroit International Waterfront. The 73- story Detroit Marriot Hotel is surrounded by 4 interconnected office towers, making the complex a “City within a City”. Due to the heavy massing of concrete on its lower floors, the design is termed as brutalist with Detroit Marriot being the tallest hotel in the western hemisphere.

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3. Penobscot Building

DETROIT- PENOBSCOT BUILDING - sheet1Built in 1928, Penobscot Building is an ornate art deco structure made in Indiana Limestone and Granite. Its art deco influence can be seen in the ornamentation on the building façade and sculptural decoration by Corrado Parducci.  It forms a crucial part of the Detroit skyline and is a 47 story landmark, tallest building in Michigan at the time it was built.

4. Guardian Building

DETROIT- GAURDIAN BUILDING - sheet1DETROIT- GAURDIAN BUILDING - sheet2DETROIT- GAURDIAN BUILDING - sheet3A national historic landmark of USA, Guardian Building is a prime example of Art Deco and Modern architectural styles. It is an office building rising up to 36 stories, topped by two asymmetrical spires. It uses unconventional materials for construction like colored brick, tile and terracotta which were also used as geometric decorations for both its interiors and building façade. Guardian building set a precedent for many other skyscrapers that were made following its design innovations.

5. Fisher Building

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DETROIT- FISHER BUILDING - sheet3Another Art Deco Landmark, Fisher Building is a Class A office building which also houses the ornate Fisher Theatre. Deemed as Detroit’s “largest art object”, it pays special emphasis on verticality and has stepped back upper stories. Its ornate 3 story barrel vaulted lobby is made with 40 different types of marble and adorned with sculptural decorations.

6. Westin Book Cadillac Hotel

DETROIT- WESTIN BOOK CADILLAC HOTEL - sheet1DETROIT- WESTIN BOOK CADILLAC HOTEL - sheet2DETROIT- WESTIN BOOK CADILLAC HOTEL - sheet3Designed in the renaissance revival architecture style, Book Cadillac hotel was the largest hotel in the world at the time it was built in 1924. Its ornate façade is decorated with sculptures of notable figures in Detroit’s history. Its design consists of neo classical elements like Corinthian pilasters and ionic columns in limestone and beige brickwork. It has 31 floors with condos and penthouses in the top eight floors.

7. Fox Theatre-

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A performing arts theatre, built in 1928, Fox theatre has a seating capacity of 5,174 making it one of the largest theatres at the time. Its architecture style is predominantly art deco with ornate interiors featuring a blend of Indian, Burmese, Chinese and Persian motifs. The theatre entrance has 16 doors which lead to an elaborate lobby with plaster alcoves in the ceiling and highly ornate columns with motifs and relief work.  Fox theatre is now used as a venue for live events.

8. David Whitney House

DETROIT- DAVID WHITNEYHOUSE - sheet1DETROIT- DAVID WHITNEYHOUSE - sheet12DETROIT- DAVID WHITNEYHOUSE - sheet3The David Whitney house is a historic mansion, constructed in 1890s as a private residence for David Whitney Jr. The house was made in Romanesque revival architecture style and its exterior was constructed using pink jasper stone with Tiffany glass for windows. The house has 52 rooms and 218 windows making it one of the most well known mansions of the time. The mansion is now converted into a restaurant called “The Whitney”.

9. St. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church-

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DETROIT- ST ANNE DE DETROIT - sheet3Built in 18th century, the church has a gothic revival architectural style with flying buttresses. It is the second oldest Roman Catholic parish in all of United States. The Church faces a landscaped grand brick plaza, and the main entrance on the north facade includes four sculptural gargoyles. The church has stained glass windows which are considered to be oldest in the city of Detroit.

10. Masonic Temple-

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DETROIT-MASONIC TEMPLE - sheet3Built in 1926, The Detroit Masonic temple is the largest Masonic temple in the world. It has a neo gothic architectural style and is built entirely in limestone. Its interiors feature ornate decorations in Egyptian, gothic, byzantine and renaissance style motifs. Most of the plaster and metal work was done by sculptor Corrado Parducci. Masonic temple has a distinctive sculptural ornamentation in both its interior and exterior.

Author

Darshika Rajput is currently in her fourth year of architecture. She is a voracious reader and an art aficionado who loves to translate the essence of a space into words. She truly believes that words indeed are our most inexhaustible source of magic.

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