Friday, June 10, 2011

Postcards from Michigan

Being a series of pilgrim's impressions from an excursion to Wright and Saarinen sites.

 Friday, June 3 - 
A beautiful day for a bus trip - picked up a group of Canadian friends en route across the Niagara peninsula.  Arrived Cranbrook Academy for lunch.  Sitting on original Saarinen-designed chairs made the cafeteria food taste better (at least a little).  The palette of materials here feels familiar - so similar to the warm masonry and wood the Saarinens used in Kleinhans back home.  The campus buildings and Saarinen house are a fascinating mash-up of Nordic Classicism, Deco, and homespun Finnish Arts and Crafts.  Somehow, it works.  Later:  a visit to the Affleck house, a unique L-plan Usonian nearby.  The light-filled entry hall near the bend in the "L" really activates the plan.  Huge cantilevers reach out to the ravine, a la Fallingwater.  I like the Usonians more and more - so much variation on a common theme.

Saturday, June 4 - 
Escaped the mall-sprawl of Novi, and headed west to the Shaberg house.  Love the funky, neo-retro-modern decor - references the era of the house, but doesn't try to live in the past.  Means of support for the ceiling / roof are a mystery, and the mitered glass-meeting-plaster is uncanny.  The owner is a welcoming and entertaining host - said that Pete Townsend once slept on his floor (in NYC).  Knew I'd find a Wright-Who connection some day.  Back on the magic bus... Later:  arrived Grand Rapids and the Meyer May house, which inspires awe before we even step off the bus.  Jerry Foster is waiting with bells on (actually, his Martin House t-shirt on).  The house is a stunner and a must-see.  (Note to self:  buy stock in Steelcase)  So many previews of the finished detail to come at the Martin House:  wall treatments, sconces, furniture, landscaping.  The living room is a tour de force of art glass, integrated with millwork in a way that hints at the California textile block houses.  The Niedecken mosaic is sublime (and makes for a great tote bag).  Nice dinner with Jerry and Hanne and the whole group - great to spend some time with them on their turf.   

Sunday, June 5 - 
Wow...the Turkel House is a gem, and any Wright house owners that hand me a Bloody Mary on the way in are OK in my book!  They explain that the construction was far from "Automatic," but the end result is amazing - integration of the various blocks and glass produce a unique union of structure and enclosure - especially evident in the soaring "music" room.  Great collection of Wright books, decorative objects and art, inside and out.  And then brunch... could this GET any better?  Nobody wanted to leave (good thing we had a travel schedule to keep).  Thanks Dale and Norm - we'll be back!

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