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GRapcity

Modernism in GR

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I'm doing some research and wondered if anyone knows why the "international" style and more specifically the similarity to works of Mies van der Rohe was used for the city and county administration buildings at Caldar Plaza. Bureaucracy probably had a lot to do with it but they were built in the late sixties with the 50's modernist style. Any insight would be great.

Also, any comments for or against the buildings would be helpful.

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What kind of research are you doing? The City and County buildings were a joint venture between C. A. OBryon and Nachtegall, Inc. of Grand Rapids and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago. My guess is that since this was a smaller project SOM just borrowed from their other designs and the result was something similar to everything else by SOM at the time. I don't think its all that similar to Mies either.

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The GR admin building definitely resembles Mies, specifically the Toronto Dominion Centre completed in 1967, and the Federal Plaza in Chicago completed in 1975 which has the 51 foot tall Flamingo sculpture by Alexander Calder completed in 1973 in front of it. The GR admin building was completed in between.

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I think the difference is the nice, clean lines on that Toronto building and the Seagram Building vs. City Hall which doesn't have nearly the same level of detail.

City Hall and County Building facades

Those the edges of the windows on city hall don't even look even, but that's just my opinion and I'll leave it at that.

Here's a couple images from an SOM group on flickr that look pretty close to what we have:

County Building?

City Hall?

I don't think Vandenberg Center's architecture is horrible, but the whole area is terrible urban design and has no vitality to it whatsoever. I read that what is now the 5/3 Building used to have a restaurant on its tenth floor, but I'm guessing it closed do to a lack of people in the area after everyone left their offices at 5pm.

Posting is too much work, I like reading better :P

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Last I knew there is still a private club at the top of the 5/3 building.

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Last I knew there is still a private club at the top of the 5/3 building.

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Would the HPC have anything on the buildings that were there before renewal?

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To get back to the question raised in the OP, the "International Style" was the architectural lingua franca when City Hall and the County Building were designed in the late 1960s. No one was really doing anything else, unless you count the brutalists. I have always been fond of these buildings, which at least have a clean look with good quality stone cladding. By comparison, the Federal Building is atrocious -- green brick? And the State Building, with its neo-Gothic look, is a joke.

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Exactly. Detroit and Lansing also built their new city halls around that time in similar modernist fashions. It was just the trend of the time; that's all.

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Last I knew there is still a private club at the top of the 5/3 building.

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SOM declined any comment because their too busy and have thier privacy issues but whatever. I am glad they were not torn down especially when their paid for (aside from the historical significance). They create the contrast with the calder, the concrete/stone plaza, the blue sky and definitely with the new architecture of Devos Place. I think it looks sharp and I'm glad the city/county admin has that look rather than the fifth third, bank one, or any of those other buildings of no significance. It is definitely a dead area after hours and feels eerie but they definitely tell a story. Thanks again for all the info everyone.

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This thread is a convenient excuse to re-post one of my favorite pics...

221239495_32b09a2fbc_o.jpg

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SOM declined any comment because their too busy and have thier privacy issues but whatever. I am glad they were not torn down especially when their paid for (aside from the historical significance). They create the contrast with the calder, the concrete/stone plaza, the blue sky and definitely with the new architecture of Devos Place. I think it looks sharp and I'm glad the city/county admin has that look rather than the fifth third, bank one, or any of those other buildings of no significance. It is definitely a dead area after hours and feels eerie but they definitely tell a story. Thanks again for all the info everyone.

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City Hall would look a lot better if they didn't have those god-awful screens over the windows. That really wrecks any potential for good looks that we could be seeing there (except for the north side).

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City Hall would look a lot better if they didn't have those god-awful screens over the windows. That really wrecks any potential for good looks that we could be seeing there (except for the north side).

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I think there is a pool in the basement too - as part of the University Club.

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Aha, now I know why I always get the urge to go swimming when I walk by there.

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