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

Martin Schwartz Shines in Gunnar Birkerts Talk

More than twenty brave souls made it to Martin Schwartz’s talk on Gunnar Birkerts, in spite of the dangerous driving conditions of the last big snow of the season.   Schwartz spoke on Birkerts’ unique methods of bringing light into his buildings.  We learned not only about specific Birkerts’ buildings, some not well-known, but also gained a great appreciation of the challenges of bringing in light with which all architects wrestle.


Lecture: Gunnar Birkerts: The Work Speaks for Itself

In his talk on March 1, Martin Schwartz will discuss his first conversations with Gunnar Birkerts about his work, researching in the Birkerts collections at the University of Michigan Bentley Library, and how this led to the book, Gunnar Birkerts: Metaphoric Modernist.  He will concentrate his remarks on his and Gunnar’s shared interest in how architecture and daylight work together to make great spaces and enhance the experience of architecture, ideas that Gunnar addressed throughout his professional career.

The lecture will take place on March 1, at 7 PM in the Whiting Room of the Bentley Historical Library, at 1150 Beal Ave., Ann Arbor, MI  48109.

Martin Schwartz is an architect as well as an Associate Professor and Associate Chair at the Department of Architecture at Lawrence Technological University.  He is the author of the architectural essays in the book, Gunnar Birkerts: Metaphoric Modernist (2009), an anthology of the architect’s career in design.

Martin’s research concerns daylight and its broad influence on architectural and urban design, specifically how a knowledge of daylight enables architects and urban designers to make a range of design decisions far beyond meeting minimum illumination standards.  His current scholarship focuses on how daylight influences the making of architectural space and form.  Martin writes a blog about daylight, Architecture in the Light of Day, which may be found at www.architectureinthelightofday.blogspot.com/.

Martin was the Willard A. Oberdick Fellow at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in 1991-1992.   In 1994, he was the Frederick Charles Baker Distinguished Professor in Lighting at the Department of Architecture at the University of Oregon.

New UMMA Publication Now Available

The University of Michigan Museum of Art has published Three Michigan Architects: George B. Brigham, Robert C. Metcalf, David W. Osler as a follow up to the exhibits they presented in 2013 on the work of these three men.  The text is by the head of the museum, Joe Rosa, and Nancy Bartlett, associate director of the Bentley Historical Library.  The illustrations that demonstrate the work of these architects will be of interest to a2modern members as a number of the examples are homes where we’ve hosted open houses.    It is touching that they’ve dedicated the book to Nancy Deromedi, founder of a2modern, who we still very much miss. The book is available at the art museum store or by mail order.  Below is the official description and ordering information.


UMMA is pleased to announce the publication of Three Michigan Architects: Brigham, Metcalf, and Osler.  Featuring essays by Joseph Rosa and Nancy Bartlett, this 68-page fully-illustrated catalogue explores the domestic work of three seminal Modern architects who practiced in Ann Arbor from 1930 to the 1980s: George Brigham, Robert Metcalf, and David Osler. Three Michigan Architects examines each practitioner’s interpretation of the Modern vocabulary.  The catalog situates their regional body of work in the larger context of Modern architecture in the U.S. that developed on the East and West Coasts.  Featuring archival plans, drawings, and photographs from the Bentley Historical Library, this catalog is the culmination of the 2014 exhibition series and symposium of the same name.


UMMABooks, December 2015

Joseph Rosa, Nancy Bartlett, David Choberka, Antje Gamble

Available for purchase online at store.umma.umich.edu, and at the UMMA Store.

Brigham’s Hodges / Conlin Open House

Open house on Sunday, October 18 / 1PM, 2PM, 3PM


We are hosting our first ever tour of a home designed by George Brigham on October 18. Tickets are $15 and may be obtained at http://www.a2modern.myevent.com/ .

When Chris Conlin bought this 1956 George Brigham house 18 months ago, it still had its beautiful clean mid-century modern lines, but was almost 60 years old and needed attention.  Chris kept the footprint and exterior exactly as it was, but did extensive work inside to update it and make it his own.

The house’s architect, George Brigham (1899-1977), is considered Ann Arbor’s father of mid-century modernism.  He trained at MIT in the prevailing Beaux Arts style, but when he taught at Cal Tech he became interested in the architecture emerging in California, especially homes by Greene and Greene, Schlindler, and Neutra.  When he came to U-M in 1930, he was anxious to work in the new style, although it took a few years to get commissions since it was the midst of the Depression. He ended up designing 66 buildings in the Ann Arbor area, concurrently with teaching. He was a champion of this style, often giving speeches on its virtues.  He was also interested in social issues and worked on developing affordable housing and temporary shelters.

Highland Lane’s development was a joint project of Brigham and his wife Ilma with Madeline and Fred Hodges, the latter chair of the U-M radiology department and an assistant dean in the Medical School.  In 1957 the two couples bought from Margaret and Robert McNamara (soon to be U. S. Secretary of Defense) a parcel of land that ran behind Highland Street and was part of the grounds of their house at 210 Highland.  The Brighams and Hodges put in a road and installed utility lines prior to selling lots.

The Hodges kept the two end lots for themselves while the adjoining ones were sold to Richard and Ann Kennedy and to Charles and Katherine Sawyer.  Brigham designed houses for all three couples,  taking care to position them so they couldn’t see into each other’s homes.   A fourth house was later designed by David Osler, following the deed restriction that all homes had to be designed by an architect.

Chris is happy that he was able to buy the Hodges house, fearing that someone else might have bought it just for the lot, which is in a prime location near campus.  “I’ve kept the modern feel, I’ve nothing ornate,” says Chris, explaining his guiding principal on what turned out to be a year-long job, including putting in new wiring, air conditioning, and insulation.   He kept the original windows and skylights so the house if full of light.  The original fireplace is still the heart of the house. Chris took down several walls which add to the free flowing modern look including making two bedrooms into one, moving a free standing hall closet out of the way, and opening up the kitchen.  He added more storage to keep down the clutter and put in light trays on the living room ceiling so no lamps are needed.  He has followed this aesthetic by choosing furniture with clean lines.  Chris cleared out the overgrown backyard, so the windows now look out on grass and trees and the new patio.

written by Grace Shackman