Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture

About a hundred years ago, working within the most prestigious architectural firms in one of the most forward-looking and dynamic cities of the time, Wirt Rowland was made lead designer on scores of important contracts. Many of the most beautiful, and now iconic, buildings in Detroit were his creations. The book lifts this small-town Michigan man up, shines a light on his quiet genius, and tells the story of how he pursued and achieved a uniquely American building shape and design — and created beauty.

Much of Rowland’s success flowed from his faithful practice of the forgotten yet cardinal principles of harmonious design from classical Greece and Medieval Europe. Never letting go of this intelligence from the Old World, Rowland actively sought inspiration for his art in the New World as well. He found it in the very rustic yet expressive shapes and colors of the ancient landscape and dwellings of the American southwest; he brilliantly translated that beauty into urban structures, such as his gorgeous Guardian and Penobscot buildings.

Michael G. Smith gives us a great feast. This book is biography and construction history, but the story of how an architect consciously designed beauty into the modern buildings of Detroit is exceptional.

–Brenda E. Bentley enjoys buildings, art, trees, and history; a long-time Ann Arborite, her Riverwalks Ann Arbor is a guide to pleasant walking routes that criss-cross the river, intersect social nodes in the city, and pass by historical landmarks

Featured in July 2018 newsletter