Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, Waltham, MA


This suburban church appears similar to countless red brick churches across the country. However look closer and there are a few details that stand out. The front entrance and side elevations all sport an undulated concrete awning which gives the building a little verve and also distinguishes it from similar overall designs from the 1980s and 90s that would not include such a detail. The wall of glass that runs from ground to roof on the front facade also calls note to a more mid-century design. The church itself was built in The 1962-63, and also includes several school and auxiliary buildings from the same era.


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Second Baptist Church Educational Building, Detroit, MI

IMG_6726This auxiliary church building was built in 1968 and designed by Nathan Johnson who also designed the Detroit People Mover stations, like the one directly across the street from this building. He designed homes and this incredible commercial building that still exists, if worse for wear.
IMG_6721Sources: http://s3.amazonaws.com/michiganmodern-prod/app/public/ckeditor_assets/attachments/7/mm_det-driv_final.pdf

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Skillman Center for Children, Detroit, MI


Here we have another mundane take on Yamasaki (and to a lesser extent Albert Kahn Associates) which shows the prevalent use of formalism throughout Detroit during the mid-century.

Part of Wayne State, the Skillman Center for Children building dates from 1965 and is part of the larger Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, created in 2005 as a merger with the previously independent Merrill-Palmer Institute.

The formal elements of the exterior include beige brick walls across the front with a double height concrete entrance canopy. The sections of brick are broken up by concrete frames rounded at the top. The side elevation is largely windows that look onto John R. Street.


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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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