Church of Christ, Detroit, MI


Besides being built in 1972, not a lot of information is available on this complex in Elmwood Park. But through research I did discover an awesome recent photo essay on modernist churches of Detroit. Enjoy that here!


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Life Sciences Building, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI


A lesser known design by the firm that built Detroit, the Life Sciences Building was constructed in 1959 by Albert Kahn Associates. At this point Kahn had been dead for 17 years and yet the firm continued on designing numerous structures in the modern style.


Located on the southern end of campus, this one possibly takes its cues from the 1958 Yamasaki designed McGregor Memorial Conference Center from the year before, with its all-white exterior and regular facade in a formalist pattern.

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7451 Third Avenue, Detroit, MI


This quirky little commercial building is located on a curve of Third Avenue as it winds its way through New Center. The building was renovated in 2013 so it’s unclear what materials are original, but the overall design feels distinctly mid-century.


The basic design is a long, one-story rectangular box with aluminum framing across the facade with black and gold tiles below and clerestory windows above. A concrete planter runs along the entire base of the front. The tiling creates a surprisingly elegant detail for what is a largely mundane structure.


There is a central staircase at the rear of the building but this looks to be a new addition. Thanks to Michele U. for the last photo.


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Cathedral Church of St. Paul Parish House, Detroit, MI


Detroit has a good number of turn of the century, high-style churches, close to a dozen lining Woodward Avenue at intervals leading out of downtown. St. Paul’s is one of several done in the Gothic Revival style, this one by prolific architect Ralph Adams Cram, a proponent of the Gothic Revival interpreted in a modern way. The church itself dates to 1907 and is associated with several famous Detroiters, including serving as the location of Henry Ford’s funeral.


The parish house next door dates from 1959 and is a surprisingly straightforward interpretation of Gothic Revival. Cram had been dead since 1942 so it was not designed by him although it could have been his successor firm, which still exists today. The quality materials including a granite base and limestone facade, keep the building firmly tied to its high-style neighbor, although here the Gothic details feel like more of an applique. Today the statue above the entrance is missing and it’s possible that the parish house is empty.


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7650 Second Avenue, Detroit, MI


In a city filled with Minoru Yamasaki designs, here is a building that might have taken a few cues from him. The structure is elevated above street level and seems to float above a recessed first floor, both characteristics seen on other Yamasaki buildings. The white concrete creates thin, even divisions between the windows creating a formalist design. Simply viewing a site like the McGregor Center, one can see immediate similarities.

The building, constructed in 1968, was possibly built as a school. When Barsamian Preparatory Center closed on the site in 2012, the building was renovated into flexible office space. The complex, now called the MID, is still available although it’s unclear if any of the spaces have been taken.

This view is actually a side of the building and the main entrance is off a parking lot on Second Avenue, which can be seen in this image from Curbed.


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Arts League Building, Detroit, MI


Located on Woodward Avenue, one of Detroit’s main thoroughfares, the Arts League Building is a mid-rise mid-century corporate office tower. Originally constructed in 1915, the building had a mid-century facade added in 1960. The front facade includes blue tiles and a steel framed grid of windows. Much more to come from Detroit!




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Mary Mother of Priests, Jemez Springs, NM


Our posts continue from New Mexico, courtesy of reader Brigid H. This church, Mary Mother of Priests, looks like a beacon in the landscape, complete with lantern crowning the tower in front. The materials are stark and simple including large stone embedded in concrete at the tower base and on the facade. However, the real story is the campus that the church is part of, which has a very unusual and somewhat dark back story.


Built in 1962, the church is part of a larger complex for the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, founded by Father Gerald Fitzgerald in 1947 to help troubled clergy. Originally starting off helping more priests with substance abuse problems, it also served a number of sexually abusive priests. Fitzgerald was conflicted in serving this segment of the clergy. Google is full of articles and other writings about the center’s background.



New Mexico’s Sanctuaries, Retreats, and Sacred Places; Nealson, Christina;  Westcliffe Publishers; 2003.


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