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Designing Detroit : Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture by Michael G. Smith

Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture by Michael G. Smith

In the early 1900s, Detroit was leading the nation in architectural innovation and designer Wirt Rowland was at the forefront of this advancement, yet few are even aware of his substantial contribution to the evolution of architectural style. It is widely believed that celebrated local architect Albert Kahn designed many of Detroit’s structures, such as the General Motors and First National Bank buildings. In fact, while Kahn’s efforts were focused on running his highly successful firm, it was Rowland, his chief designer, who was responsible for the appearance and layout of these buildings—an important point in appreciating the contributions of both Kahn and Rowland. During the early twentieth century, Rowland devised a wholly new or “modern” design for buildings, one not reliant on decorative elements copied from architecture of the past. As buildings became more specialized for their intended use, Rowland met the challenge with entirely new design methodologies and a number of improved technologies and materials that subsequently became commonplace.

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