City Club Apartment Construction in Detroit


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  1. #1

    Default DIA - Gunnar Birkerts Addition

    I'm surprised that it is so difficult to find pictures of the Gunnar Birkerts addition to the DIA prior to Michael Graves' renovation. Does anyone know of additional exterior / interior photos available online? This is the only one I've been able to find:

    I visited the museum many times when I was young but do not have a great memory of what it was like prior to the renovation.

  2. #2


    I can't find any images either, interestingly enough.

    While the dark stone (Marble?) clad north and south wings were made of quality materials, I could never come to terms with the jarring difference between them and the white original museum.

    One thing that you could not tell from Woodward Ave. was that the north wing was nearly twice as large as the south wing (you could tell from John R). And the Michael Graves reconstruction corrected that by bulking up the south wing to match the north wing in size.

    I was pleased with Michael Graves design, and now it looks like one large museum, instead of 3 separate buildings.

  3. #3


    Your picture is from The Architecture of Gunnar Birkerts, Kay Kaiser, 1989. It's one of four pictures. Here are the others.
    Hope that this helps.

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  4. #4


    Neilr, that original floorplan must have been the initial plans... before it was decided that the wings would not be mirror images of each other. The north wing (which also houses DIA offices) was built almost square in shape, while the south wing retained its' "L" shape as seen in the floor plans.

  5. #5


    I preferred the contrast of the black addition against the white original-- it highlighted the original building. Both were classy components in their own right. There was no need to destroy the look of Birkerts' addition.

  6. #6


    Here is an early floor plan of the DIA, before the plan was expanded to include Rivera Court and the DIA Theatre at the top. This plan also had a much smaller Great Hall. Architect: Paul P. Cret.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  7. #7


    Thanks for those few extra pictures. I still find it odd that there is so little documentation for an addition that stood for nearly 40 years. Being that all four images came from the same source.

  8. #8


    Yeah it's weird. The only images I've ever seen are from that book, and I have no recollection of what it looked like in person (although I was young then).

    Also, while I do want to support our local architects, imo Birkerts is overrated. Yes, his work is better than corporate developer architecture, and some of his buildings are better than others, but as a whole I think most others would do at least as well if given the opportunity. He didn't really seem to have much of a theoretical basis for his architecture, but the aesthetics weren't really very strong either.

    But I'm still curious to know more about his DIA expansion. It's a mystery why such a prominent building in the city, by a relatively prominent architect, which only finished renovations in 2007, would seemingly have no photographic record of its existence.

  9. #9


    Here's a large color Flickr image of the South Wing next to the original DIA... it looks too fortress like for my tastes. And despite the fact that it's made of fine granite, it's too jarring in my opinion compared to the original wing.

    The DIA (south) Farnsworth Entrance back in the day....
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Gistok; July-28-19 at 02:09 PM.

  10. #10


    I always like the Birkerts additions a lot. As was the style of the times in the '60s and '70s, no attempt was made to ape or echo the classical style of the original museum, but to backdrop it with a modernist aesthetic that would stand on its own. I found the dark stone to be an interesting contrast with the light stone original, and to have its own sort of stateliness and subtly stark drama.

    More importantly though, the interior gallery spaces were actually quite warm, spacious, and flowing. And the atrium like spaces created adjacent to the walls of the original museum were especially inviting and dramatic, and provided a fine space and setting for the display of large modernist sculptural works. I actually miss a lot about the Birkerts additions that was lost in the, to me less aesthetically appealing, Graves renovation.

  11. #11


    One of the features of the new Graves updates to the north and south wings that I really like are the new grand hallway going from one wing, thru the old section, and then continuing on thru the other wing. Also many of the new vistas inside the Graves design are more interesting than they were inside the Birkerts design.

    There is an exterior slideshow, and interior slideshow....

  12. #12


    The DIA is illustrated in "Gunnar Birkerts, Metaphoric Modernist" 2009, and "GA Architect 2, Gunnar Birkerts & Associates" 1982.

  13. #13


    I noticed that the 1 ft. tall baseboards in many of the old galleries appears to be made of the same dark gray granite as the 2 Birkerts additions (before the Michael Graves refacing). Not sure if they are a reuse of the old stone facing of the north/south wings.

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