Cranbrook

Buildings of Detroit

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History

cranbrookThe Cranbrook Educational Community, a unique 300 acre campus begun in the 1930s, was envisioned as an artistic community that would help students insert the fundamentals of good design back into everyday life. Cranbrook developed out of a collaboration between Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and Detroit News owners George and Helen Booth. All three disliked the “shoddy, machine-age goods” produced by America’s industrial revolution. The Booths agreed to fund an institution based on Saarinen’s belief that, since “creative art” could not be taught directly, artists needed to be part of a community in which they could learn from each other through observation and discussion. The focus of this effort was Cranbrook Academy, which opened in 1932 and quickly attracted students of architecture, sculpture, and painting from around the world. Its success led Saarinen to expand his original plans, and by the the early 1940s, the campus had evolved into what he called a “historic document” of his developing sense of “American” architecture. Various building and landscape designs display the influences of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie” style, the International style, and the traditions of European classicism. World renowned sculptor and faculty member Carl Milles created more than 70 sculptures for the campus to complement Saarinen’s architecture, and student-artists designed every gate latch, rug, and light fixture. This environment, one observer noted, encourages students “to invest their own work with the same degree of thoughtfulness, care, delight, imagination, and pride that the things around them showed.”

Cranbrook’s campus features the work of world-renowned architects such as Eliel Saarinen, Albert Kahn, Steven Holl, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and Rafael Moneo and sculptors Carl Milles, Marshall Fredericks and others.

buildings:
Williams Natatorium, 1999 (Tod Williams and Billie Tsien)
Saarinen House, 1925 (Eliel Saarinen)
Cranbrook Institute of Science, 1936 (Eliel Saarinen), Addition, 1998 (Stephen Holl)


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