Design Profession: Architect, Artist
Building Types: Commercial, Educational, Religious, Residential
Louis Redstone was born Louis Routenstein in Grodno, Russia. He was the fifth of seven children. His father, Abraham Routenstein, was a military supply store owner who made embroidered and beaded artisan clothing for the military and was designated "Craftsman to his Imperial Majesty the Czar."
Redstone's interest in architecture was first triggered during the German occupation of Russia from 1913 to1919, when schools offered special interest courses such as mechanical and architectural drafting. However, Redstone never thought that those courses would lead to his future career. Many of his drawings caught the attention of his instructors who had hoped he would continue with architecture.
The constant political conflict in Grodno caused Redstone to leave the city in June 1920, at the age of seventeen. Hoping to learn the building trades, he joined a group of Jewish Pioneers traveling to Palestine to rebuild Jewish settlements. In Palestine Redstone gained experience working on various infrastructure and building projects. He learned to cut stone and lay brick, eventually becoming a stone mason. His experience gave him an extensive knowledge of the capabilities of materials that would benefit him later in his career.
In 1923 Redstone emigrated from Palestine to Detroit at the urging of his brother Solomon, who had moved there in 1916, and adopted the Americanized name of Redstone. He worked as a brick mason until he had saved enough money to attend the University of Michigan School of Architecture where he enrolled in August 1925. During the summer Redstone studied sculpture, painting, and drawing under the artist Sam Cashwan in his studio in the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts building. Redstone's time with Cashwan strengthened his belief that art should be an integral part of the total building design, of both interior and exterior surroundings.
When Redstone graduated from the University of Michigan in 1929, work was hard to come by due to the Great Depression. He found limited work with the Ford Motor Company as a Russian translator for the Autostroy mission. Once the project was completed, Redstone took a temporary position at an automotive hardware design company designing door handles. As the Depression deepened and work became harder to find, Redstone returned to Palestine in 1933 in the hope of finding employment in architecture there.
Redstone stayed in Palestine working as a draftsman and running an architectural firm through 1937, taking commissions for residential homes and apartment buildings. His designs, influenced by European Modern architects such as Eric Mendelsohn, were built of brick and stucco formed into simple geometric forms with no ornamentation. After assisting in the design of the Palestine Pavilion for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, Redstone returned to Detroit and opened his own architectural practice.
Redstone's passion for art and design encouraged a life-long commitment to learning. It brought him to the Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuck, Michigan, in the summer of 1939 where he spent weekends painting and immersing himself in the creative community. After working with Eliel Saarinen and the Civic Design Group of Detroit to develop a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the city of Detroit in 1942, Redstone enrolled in graduate school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he earned a master's degree in urban design in 1948.
Redstone's practice was successful and his work can be found throughout Metropolitan Detroit. He designed hundreds of buildings: banks, bowling alleys, restaurants, schools, synagogues, and motels. He is perhaps best known for his work with southeast Michigan's early suburban shopping centers. Redstone partnered with the architect Victor Gruen to develop Westland, one of the first suburban shopping centers developed by the J. L. Hudson Company of Detroit. Redstone's work is characterized by the integration of art with architecture. Whether commercial, residential or educational, he created a total artistic design experience.