The goals of the Michigan Modern project are to:
Define Michigan’s role in the development of American modernism.
Rebrand Michigan based on its outstanding design heritage, which is less known but just as influential as its manufacturing heritage.
Develop a cultural heritage tourism initiative based on Michigan’s modern resources that will draw national and international attention.
Use the continued vitality of Michigan’s design industry to attract young, talented people to the state.
Raise awareness of the significance of modern resources and encourage their preservation and reuse.
The Michigan Modern project began in 2008 when the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) received a Preserve America grant from the National Park Service. The purpose of the project was to document and promote Michigan’s architectural and design heritage from 1940 to 1970. However, it soon became apparent that Michigan’s contributions to the development of Modernism began much earlier, just after the turn of the twentieth century.
The SHPO worked with consultants Eric Hill and Rob Yallop of Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architects (LAS) of Ann Arbor to develop a historic context narrative for Modernism in Michigan. LAS surveyed and documented 100 of Michigan’s most significant modern resources. They prepared National Register of Historic Places nominations for eight homes that Michigan architects designed for themselves and their families. Four oral histories of period architects were recorded. All of this compiled information, and more, is now included on this website.
In addition, SHPO has developed National Historic Landmark (NHL) nominations for three standout Michigan Modern resources: General Motors Technical Center in Warren by Eero Saarinen; Lafayette Park in Detroit by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; and the McGregor Memorial Conference Center at Wayne State University in Detroit by Minoru Yamasaki. All three sites have now been designated as National Historic Landmarks by the National Park Service for their national significance. As part of the project, the SHPO has encouraged representatives in local communities to develop regional organizations dedicated to promoting their modern resources.
The surface has been scratched. We will continue to research, document, encourage, and promote Michigan’s Modern heritage in the years ahead.
Available at your local book store and online.
Michigan Modern in Print
“The book demonstrates how Michigan’s industries, educational institutions, and businesses employed the most innovative architects and designers of the day, who in turn lured the best and brightest to come and work with them. In this way, Modernism and Michigan were inextricably tied.” — Architectural Record
The Great Lakes State has always been known for its contributions to twentieth-century manufacturing, but it’s only beginning to receive wide attention for its contributions to Modern design and architecture.