Design Profession: Architect
Building Types: Commercial, Cultural, Educational, Other, Residential, Social
William Kessler was born in 1924 in Reading, Pennsylvania. From 1943-1946 he served in the U. S. Army Air Force. Kessler went to Chicago for his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Institute of Design and then received his Masters in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1950 where he studied and taught with famed Bauhaus School (Weimar, Germany) founder Walter Gropius. After moving to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, he worked as Senior Designer with Joseph Leinweber, Minoru Yamasaki, and George Hellmuth Architects in Detroit. He established his own firm in 1955 with another previous Yamasaki associate and protégé of Joseph Leinweber, Philip J. Meathe, as Meathe, Kessler and Associates. His firm became William Kessler and Associates in 1968 and Kessler Francis Cardoza Architects in 1999.
Kessler is most well-known for the “human scale” architecture of his own home in Grosse Pointe built in 1959 which is considered not only one of the city’s most important modern homes but a masterpiece of modernism. Other important projects are the Grand Valley State University master plan and first buildings (with Johnson, Johnson, and Roy), Detroit Science Center, Mount Clemens Federal Savings and Loan Building, Coleman A. Young Community Center (with partners James and Carolyn Cardoza), Detroit Receiving Hospital, Detroit Center for Creative Studies, and rehabilitation of the Fox Theater (with partner Edward Francis).
Kessler received numerous design awards including the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1974 and 1976, the Hastings Award in 1984, and the Charles A. Blessing Award in 1996. He was a fellow of the A.I.A. and served twice on fellowship juries.
In addition to his architecture, he was well known for his work with the Grosse Pointe Human Relations Council, the Planning Commission, and the City Council.
He died on November 16, 2002 at his home. Upon his death, on November 16, 2002, the Detroit Free Press dubbed him “The dean of Detroit’s Architectural community.” He left behind a rich legacy of modern architecture and community action.
His papers were recently donated to the Archives of Michigan (2013) from various private donors.
Biography prepared by Tawny Ryan Nelb, November 20, 2013