After World War II, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, under the leadership of architect Eliel Saarinen, attracted some of the world's best designers and artists. Coupled with the wealth and design tradition of Michigan's booming automobile industry; the adoption of Modernist principles by the University of Michigan College of Architecture; the innovative design leadership of West Michigan's furniture industry led by Herman Miller, Inc.; and the strong base of pre-Modern work in Michigan by architects such as Alden B. Dow and Albert Kahn, Michigan provided an environment in which Modernism flourished in the mid-20th Century.
Outstanding Modern designers and architects that studied and worked in Michigan include Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, George Nelson, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, and Minoru Yamasaki. Michigan also contains outstanding Modern resources such as Eero Saarinen and Thomas Church's masterwork the General Motors Technical Center in Warren and Lafayette Park in Detroit noted by Dwell magazine to be "the single largest collection of Mies van de Rohe buildings in the world."
Michigan Modern is a growing documentation of the state's rich history of Modern design from 1940 to 1970. It will identify the Michigan-based architects and designers that championed the Modern Movement and capture their oral histories. In addition, it will document the Michigan work of renowned Modern architects, such as Ludwig Mies van de Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Ten Modern resources will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places to qualify them for preservation tax credits. A survey of Michigan's Modern architectural resources will be conducted and walking and driving tours will be created. The information gathered through the project will be made available on the Michigan Modern website.
Our goal through this project is to change how people view Michigan. The state's contribution to design has been as great as its contribution to manufacturing, yet it has been largely overlooked. By focusing on Michigan's dynamic and on-going design heritage, we hope this project will inspire a new audience to learn of the wealth of design history and opportunity that Michigan has to offer. The project seeks to inspire local communities and partners to look beyond traditional "history" and think more about how they have been shaped by the recent past.
To learn more about Michigan's modernism movement and see the growing collection of Modernism data and images collected to date, visit the project website at michiganmodern.org.
Recent Michigan Modern listings in the National Register of Historic Places (note, large file size may take a minute to load):