Techbuilt Open House


An open house will be held on Sunday, October 2 at 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM.

Techbuilt homes are considered the best of the many prefab houses that were developed to help solve the post- WWII home shortage.  Created by Boston area architect Carl Koch, a modernist who had studied under Gropius and Breuer, his design was a simple and inexpensive two-story bi-level house that could be built in a few days and added to when the family grew. Anitra and Jesse Gordons’ home, built in 1955, is one of the first built in Ann Arbor.

Click here to purchase tickets to the event.

The Gordon house on Chalmers Drive sits on the crest of a gentle ridge nestled in an encircling forest setting. On one side, steps descend to a swimming pool, open to the sky; on the other, a thick growth of tall trees provides a sheltering canopy for a spacious screened-in porch. This is a perfect site for a Techbuilt house, whose modern design allowed for ample light, open interiors and a settled-in-the-earth feeling.

Techbuilt, the brainchild of architect Carl Koch, solved two problems for homebuilders—wasted space in the basement and unusable space in the attic. By sinking the foundation a half story in the ground, the basement became the first floor. The second floor then rises to the pitched roof, whose gentle incline creates the dual effect of a cathedral ceiling in the center of the room and attic eaves at the edges. Because the barn-like frame of the building carried the weight, it was easy to install the standardized pre-fabricated wall panels and windows. Once the foundation was poured, the shell of a Techbuilt house could be put up in two days.

The Gordon house reveals the many strengths of the Techbuilt concept. Structural features—post and lintel framing, a roof visibly supported by solid but slender wooden beams, wall panels and windows placed to provide light or privacy, and an open interior wall-to-wall—present the durable, rational design elements typical of the original building. More recent modifications and additions demonstrate the flexibility of the original design, such that the four major additions authorized by the Gordons extend and cooperate with the lines of the existing structure. The large screen porch built over a wooded outlook, for example, continues the roofline in a natural extension, its gentle angle creating a cozy feeling in an open and airy space.

The Gordons are the fourth owners of the house. The second owner put in the swimming pool. Outside the house, one path leads to a short walk to Mallett’s Creek and another walk meanders in the densely wooded area nearby, accentuating the cabin-in-the-woods feel of the site. An original carport blocks the house from any view from the street. As with modern houses, the original entrance to this house was designed not to be immediately obvious to a visitor, and when you stepped in you could go up or down stairs. The Techbuilt design was the forerunner of the split-level house. These houses have a sleek, modern look and two levels of windows. Balconies could be added on, either on the ends or along the sides, and as for furniture, Carl Koch designed Techbuilt Spacemaking Furniture for those who found conventional furniture ill-adapted for use in these houses. Koch’s book, At Home with Tomorrow, catches the spirit of those days just on the verge of the Space Age and an encounter with a Techbuilt house provides an indelible insight into a vision for affordable living carried to an exceptionally detailed and successful resolution.


Written by Jeffrey Welch

Ann Arbor Hills Walking Tour

On September 4th at 2:00 PM Grace Shackman will lead a walking tour in an area filled with Mid-Century-Modern gems, including houses by Metcalf, Osler, Brigham, Johe,  Muschenheim, Olencki and Albano.  Meet at Heatherway just south of Devonshire.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://www.a2modern.myevent.com/


Another Fall Class at WCC

Learn how Washtenaw County was at the forefront of mid-century modern architecture with U-M faculty, and people trained under them, designing for a population willing to commission this then-radical style. You will also examine the importance of Michigan in the spread of mid-century modern in automobile design, Herman Miller furniture and the Cranbrook Educational Community and its influence among them. Two PowerPoint presentations will highlight these buildings, while two walking tours, that will include some inside visits, will show concrete examples.

This class is taught by another a2modern board member, Grace Shackman. You can sign up here: https://washtenaw.augusoft.net//index.cfm?method=ClassInfo.ClassInformation&int_class_id=11165&int_category_id=0&int_sub_category_id=0&int_catalog_id=0

Law Library Tour

On August 21st at 2 PM there will be a rare chance to see the University of Michigan Law School addition.

Almost entirely underground, yet light and airy, Gunnar Birkert’s 1981 law library addition is an amazing feat.   The law school desperately needed more space for a library, yet were loath to build anything that would impair the look of their 1920s neo-Gothic buildings. Birkerts solved the problem by building a structure three stories underground, lighted by V-shaped troughs that bring in light from several directions, aided by the limestone base that reflects light and the mirrored window frames. Not open to the general public, this is a unique opportunity to see the underground library, led by Margaret Leary, Director of the Library when the addition was built.

For tickets go to http://www.a2modern.myevent.com/

Fall class at WCC

If you are interested in 20th century architecture, design and furniture, this is the class for you. We will investigate mid-century modern design with an emphasis on historical aspects of domestic surroundings, including an investigation of the Bauhaus school and it’s influence on 20th & 21st century interiors.  Your personal goals, interests and preferences will be determined in the first class, with a discussion of a possible field trip and outside speakers.

The class, entitled “20th Century Architecture, Furniture and Finishes” will be held at nearby Washtenaw Community College and will be taught by Molly Osler. To register click here: 




Livingston Bandemer/Mirsky Home Tour

August 14th at 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM. This is one of several homes designed by architect James Livingston in the Arbor Hills neighborhood. It is newly restored by John and Renate Mirsky and recently featured on a tour during the national Docomomo convention, which explored modern architecture in the Detroit area. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.a2modern.myevent.com/


When John and Renate Mirsky were searching for a new home, they were not specifically looking for a mid-century modern one, but “spotting the listing in an emailing, I immediately recognized that the house fulfilled all of our priority wants,” remembers John. Their wish list included large windows to let in the sun, an open floor plan, and room for a garden.

The home was built in 1956 for William and Mary Bandemer. William was vice president of King Seeley and a Republican city council member from 1960-1964. Before marriage, Mary had been secretary to long-time mayor William Brown. The house was designed by James Livingston, who at the same time did one next door for Mary’s older sister, Margaret, and her husband Paul Greene. The two houses share a driveway and are both MCM but are quite different, although they share some traits like cove lighting and the same woodwork inside.

When Livingston designed the Mirskys’ house he was in his mid-thirties and moonlighting from his day job working for architect Walter Anicka. Joining with Bob Chase, another Anika employee, they worked evenings and weekends on their own projects. According to Chase, Livingston was the driving force, making the initial contacts and finding out what the clients wanted. Livingston clearly didn’t do cookie cutter houses, as reflected by the two sisters’ houses, but his designs were always modern. “All of Livingston’s houses were contemporary, with lots of daylight. He did nothing old-fashioned, he wouldn’t waste his time,” says Chase, adding “It was a lot of fun working with him, he was so imaginative.” Livingston went on to start his own firm and work on larger projects including the Bell Tower Hotel, Webers, Lawton school, and Maynard house. He is best remembered as the architect of Lurie Terrace, a pioneering project to house active seniors.

John and Renate moved in the summer of 2015 after spending a year and a half working on the house. They kept the original materials whenever possible or, if not, by using compatible replacements. They refinished all the woodwork and cleaned the metal hardware used throughout the house which often entailed taking things apart. Keeping an open feeling they have furnished the house with MCM furniture such as Herman Miller, Saarinen, and Eames. At the same time as meticulously keeping the Mid Century Modern ambience,they have made the house more energy efficient with a geothermal furnace, tripled glazed windows, andinsulation above the ceiling and in the crawl space.

Enthusiastic gardeners, they are using the original landscape plans by Edward Eichstadt, a Detroit-based landscaper whose projects included Cranbrook, the GM Tech Center and the basic plan for U-M Botanical Gardens, as a basis for future changes. The land sloping down to Hill Street is a natural area, perennial gardens and raised bed vegetable gardens are on the side, and fruit trees in front.

Wells Bennett / Barbara Bergman Open House

Saturday, May 14th, at 2 PM, 3 PM and 4 PM

This is the first modern home that Wells Ira Bennett designed, although at that time, 1953, he’d designed almost thirty houses in more traditional styles. He is best remembered for hiring a group of stellar modern architects while dean from 1938 to 1957 of U-M’s College of Architecture.

Bennett arrived at U-M in 1912 as an instructor and rose to leadership through his early interest in low-cost housing and city planning. As a practicing architect, Bennett was active after 1921, developing a considerable residential practice, mainly with faculty clients.  His first project was a home for himself and his family at 500 Highland. He kept busy in the 1920s and early 1930s, designing homes in the styles of the time, mainly Tudor and Colonial Revivals.  He stopped during the Depression, when few could afford to build, and then became too busy in his years as dean.

Taking over the deanship from Emil Lorch, he followed Lorch’s example of encouraging new ideas and modern styles.  He invited many of leading architects of the day to participate in seminars and conferences.  After WWII, he began hiring some of the stars of  Modernism, luring both Walter Sanders and William Muschenheim from successful practices in New York City, and Edward Olencki and Joe Albano, both of whom studied under and then worked with Mies van der Rohe, from Chicago.  He also hired talented U-M grads such as Robert Metcalf and Tivadar Balogh.  These hires not only brought prestige to the U-M architecture school but built many fine examples of modern architecture in the Ann Arbor area.

In 1953, as Bennett was nearing retirement, and after a long hiatus, he designed a house, this one again for himself.  He sited it on the front lawn of his first house, on land that sloped down to Geddes.  Although this was his first modern house, he had by then seen many examples from the rest of the faculty and of course had a dream group of colleagues to advise him if he had questions. Bennett died in 1966.

Barbara and Rueben Bergman bought the house in 1980 from Sybil Bennett’s estate and moved in with their three sons. They made the house their own –enlarging windows, reconstructing the side balcony so it would be safe, enlarging and improving the master bathroom, making a closet out of a hallway for more storage, while still keeping the totally modern feel and in fact improving it with more natural light pouring in. The most interesting change is a small room with a tower added to what was basically a galley kitchen.  Designed by Janet Attarian, it not only makes the interior feel more roomy, but gives the outside of the house more pizazz.

For tickets go to a2modern.myevents.com

Grace Shackman and Jeffrey Welch.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Lepard

Modern Cuba Encore

Back, by popular demand -


Modern Cuba:  Slideshow by Howard Shapiro

May 7, 3-5 PM:  Slide show starts promptly at 3:30 PM

Cost: $15: Proceeds will go toward upgrading our website.


Last October Howard participated in a do.co.mo.mo-US sponsored tour “Modern Cuba.” The architecture of Havana from the colonial area to the present was surveyed with an emphasis on the modern era prior to and following the revolution, including interior visits to numerous structures not open to the general public. Howard’s slideshow demonstrates the relationship of changing architectural styles to corresponding social changes and major historical events. Highlights include the Tropicana Cabaret (Max Borges Recio, 1951-1956), the Alfred de Schulthess House (Richard Neutra, 1956), and the National Art Schools (Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi, 1960-1964).

To purchase tickets go to a2modern.myevent.com

Modern Cuba

Modern Cuba:  Slideshow by Howard Shapiro in his 1965 Alden Dow house, 7 Regent Drive

April 16, 2-5 p.m.:  Slides at 3 with tours of the house before and after.

Cost: $20: Proceeds will go toward upgrading our website.


Last October Howard participated in a do.co.mo.mo-US sponsored tour “Modern Cuba.” The architecture of Havana from the colonial area to the present was surveyed with an emphasis on the modern era prior to and following the revolution, including interior visits to numerous structures not open to the general public. Howard’s slideshow demonstrates the relationship of changing architectural styles to corresponding social changes and major historical events. Highlights include the Tropicana Cabaret (Max Borges Recio, 1951-1956), the Alfred de Schulthess House (Richard Neutra, 1956), and the National Art Schools (Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi, 1960-1964).

To purchase tickets go to a2modern.myevent.com


36th Annual Michigan Modernism Exposition

The Detroit Area Art Deco Society is sponsoring a Michigan Modernism Exposition Preview party on Friday, April 8, 2016.

The 36th Annual Michigan Modernism Exposition will feature premier national dealers offering furniture, decorative and fine arts representing all design movements of the 20th century.

Each year the Detroit Area Art Deco Society cues up their biggest fundraiser of the year with an Annual Preview Party. Break out your best 1960s party attire in tribute to Detroit’s 1960’s supper clubs and sip a complimentary Tom Collins.

This year DAADS sets the stage with the theme celebrating a “Night on the Town: A Salute to Detroit’s Historic 1960’s Dining Spots.”

Take a trip down memory lane while you’re visually presented with Jeffery Bladow’s vintage 1960 Cadillac ready to roll with fashions from Leah’s Closet styled to the 1960s, Detroit’s own DJ Dave Lawson spinning vinyl tracks that he’s hand-curated from stacks of Detroit 45s from the 50s and 60s to set the tone for the evening.

On display will be a fabulous collection of vintage menus and collectibles from Detroit dinning spots presented courtesy of George Bulanda. George’s personal collection was recently presented in Hour Detroit and his collection contains iconic venues like the London Chop House, Little Harry’s, and the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars. Our curator, Rebecca Savage’s favorite “Top of the Flame” once high a top on the 26th floor of the Mich Con Building. Several other personal collections will be on display and will take you back to those glamorous and slightly crazy nights in Detroit hitting all your favorite dinning spots.

Stroll aisle upon aisle of mid-century finds designed by such greats as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Comfort, Tiffany, Herman Miller, Heywood Wakefield, the Stickleys, and so many other talented designers representing the Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Prairie, Arts and Crafts, Surrealistic and Neo-Classical Schools of Design.

Serious collectors will be thrilled to preview the show before the public opening on Saturday morning, while others will be content to sip wine, sample the sumptuous food and enjoy the music. It’s a spectacular evening for all.

Preview Party Tickets are on sale and may be purchased for $65 in advance and this year DAADS is excited to announce our New Collector ticket of $30 under 30. Tickets are available by visiting the Detroit Area Art Deco Society website at www.daads.org


The Michigan Modernism Exposition Preview Party

Friday, April 8, 2016, 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Southfield Pavilion, 26000 Evergreen Road, Southfield, MI 48076


The Detroit Area Art Deco Society is a private not-for-profit corporation founded in 1986 by a group of collectors and enthusiasts interested in the decorative objects, architecture, preservation and design of the Art Deco period. The non-staffed organization is operated by a highly dedicated Board of Directors and a committed pool of on-call volunteers, providing education, documentation and design assistance to the community. www.daads.org