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walker

Pioneer of mid-century modern architecture in GR dies

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Surprised that no one has posted about the passing of James Bronkema.  I suppose since he moved away fifty years ago it’s likely that no one here knew him or knew of him (including me.)  As Jim Harger writes in the attached obit, he was a pioneer in mid-century modern architecture around here:

 

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2014/02/james_bronkema_pioneer_of_mid-.html#incart_river_default

 

Hager has embedded links showing photos and telling more about Bronkema and local mid-century architecture but just to make them more explicit, I'm posting the links too:

 

https://www.facebook.com/WestMichiganModern 

 

http://westmichiganmodern.wordpress.com/

 

http://midcenturymichigan.com/2012/02/16/james-bronkema-1954/

 

I've got mixed feelings about this style.  They certainly don’t have the new urban hip edge we strive for here on the planet.   A lot of them featured in the photos still look nice and hold up pretty well, particularly in the Riverside area and on Fultonwood.  But flat roofs and carports of many of the houses from that era are not meant for our climate, and some (maybe not Bronkema's) were just cheaply built.  Interestingly most carports from houses of that era have been remodeled into clunky looking garages.  On the other hand, this year it would have been a lot easier to climb up on a flat roof to shovel snow off than off of my pitched roof (if the flat roof didn't collapse first.)

 

Still, when I was a kid growing up in the fifties I thought these houses were pretty cool.  A family that lived on our street east of Plainfield moved across Plainfield to the then new Riverside subdivision.  Their new house, perhaps designed by Bronkema, was a modern looking tri-level and much cooler looking than our only slightly older bungalow.  When decades later I finally got around to buying a house, guess what – I bought a tri-level of that era although in a different part of town (quad-level if you include the half basement.)  There were a lot of reasons we chose the house that we did but I’m sure on some subliminal level it was because it was a style that had been cool and modern back when I was growing up.  Luckily though, my house never had a carport or flat roof.           

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