Modern Designers

Kenneth C. Black

Design Profession: Architect

Building Types: Civic, Commercial, Educational, Other, Recreational

Kenneth Chapman Black “began his formal architectural training at the College of Architecture of the University of Michigan. President of Tau Sigma Delta in his senior year and member of a selected class in design taught by Eliel Saarinen, he received his Bachelor of Architecture degree and was awarded the George G. Booth Traveling Fellowship in Architecture. He spent a year of study in Europe with the American Academy in Rome as his headquarters. Several years later he returned to the Academy for an additional six months of advanced study.” Mr. Black then “joined his father, Lee Black, in 1930 after about five years of design experience in New York City.”

Speaking in 1947, Mr. Black urged American architects to “free our communities from the ‘strait-jackets’ imposed by faulty street patterns and by unitelligent restrictions in deeds, zoning ordinances and building codes.” He posited that the post-war housing boom was the “greatest contributing factor in the bringing of our cities to the present state of development,” noting that this new environment “created an undesirable artificial mode of living,” and he predicted that “the people who are now moving out of city areas find that their new surroundings are not the Utopia they expected.” To remedy this, he urged that “we must again capture the elusive quality of humanness and weave it into the physical framework of our cities.” A framework that can be accomplished by producing “buildings and building groups that create an atmosphere of intimacy with human life.”

When his father retired in 1958, Mr. Black organized Kenneth C. Black Associates, Inc. He was advanced to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects in 1952, and was also a Past President of the Michigan Society of Architects, a recipient of the MSA’s Gold Medal in 1962. Mr. Black also served on the Michigan Planning Commission, the Lansing City Planning Commission, and on the Michigan Association of Professions.

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