Monday, January 31, 2011

Some Square Format Views

I think my favorite photographic format is the square view given to me by my Hasselblad and Ciroflex cameras. Filling a square makes me think harder about composition -- lines, shapes, colors, and where they are positioned within the frame. It's a good format for architectural photography.

Here are a couple of photographs that came from film that was just recently developed! Both were taken over the summer (July 2010) while I was still living up north.

Thill's Fish House, Marquette

Calumet, MI
St. Anne's Church, Calumet

This year, I hope to do more medium format photography. Sometimes, I forget just how much fun it is! I almost always end up with better-composed, higher-quality photographs. Only having twelve exposures per roll makes me get it right the first time, in comparison to the hundreds of exposures that can be held on a memory card.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Bank of Lansing

Yesterday, we were in Lansing -- to see Stephanie's artwork displayed in the office building of the Michigan House of Representatives. Bravo, Steph!

One of the more notable buildings downtown is the Bank of Lansing. Now Comerica Bank, it was completed in 1931. It's a 15-story limestone structure, decorated in a fanciful and exotic art deco style. A pair of elephants guard the main entrance, while both animals and symbolism of local significance adorn the façade.


Prairie Dog(?)


And, just in case... it's a fallout shelter too!

Gargoyle/Fallout Shelter

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back, with Grand Rapids

Hi everyone! I thought it might be a good time to start bringing this blog back from the ashes, so to speak. I feel my photography of architecture got a little stagnant after spending so much time in Marquette (and Ann Arbor)... now that I've graduated from Northern Michigan University, I find myself back in Ann Arbor. I haven't traveled much since arriving here in mid-August, but this past Saturday, we did take a trip to Grand Rapids, for Art Prize. Though the main focus of our downtown wanderings was the art on display, I couldn't help but notice the architecture...


This fine griffons detail was on a large building that I sadly did not get the name of. Located on a corner and made of brick, it appeared to have a good deal of Richardsonian Romanesque influences; if anyone knows the name and history of this building, let me know in the comments. On the other side of the intersection was this interesting piece of architecture, the Waldron Building:

Though the two large gargoyles on the right side of the roof appear to be a more recent addition, there was some wonderful original ornamentation on the building, especially around its central oval window:

Waldron Building

More griffons! I couldn't find much about this beautiful structure -- any information would be great.

Lastly, on our way back to the parking garage, we took a shortcut through an alleyway -- and I saw a great contrast between architecture old and new.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Decorative Utilitarian Buildings

Excuses why I haven't updated this blog since November aside, I had a bit of an epiphany while driving through Traverse City this afternoon. Stephanie was driving, and we were approaching an old service station. I had to look twice, as I thought I was seeing things -- but I wasn't. It was an operational service station housed in a beautiful example of art deco architecture.

The first thing that caught my eye was the awesome, stylized type on the left side of the building.

The exterior looked to be in beautiful shape. So beautiful, in fact, that the gold detailing above the doorway was glistening in the sun.

This, of course, brings me back to the sad state of present-day architecture designed for buildings of utilitarian purposes, such as service stations. You aren't going to see a service station built this extravagantly -- ever again. Chances are these days, you won't see a new furniture store, car dealership, or even a bank designed so intricately. It's very telling, and we can all draw our own conclusions as to why, as a culture, we've turned into what we are today -- homogenous.

While we're on the subject of service stations, it's always important to mention these places.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

AD 303: Individual Art Review

A huge part of the art school here at Northern Michigan University is AD 303 -- Individual Art Review -- a pass-or-fail class that determines whether or not you can continue being an art major. It's serious, scary business and you are required not only to build a portfolio, but develop a statement of intent that clearly explains the social purpose behind your artwork. Leading up to the final review, you develop this statement of intent (presenting it to your advisor several times), create a resume, and make digital documentation of your portfolio. For the final review, you hand out your statement of intent and present your portfolio to a panel of six art professors, one of which is your advisor. You are then questioned for twenty-five minutes, and you have no prior knowledge of the crazy things these professors might ask you. And then -- you pass, or you fail.

I went through this process yesterday, and I'm pleased to report that I passed with a satisfactory grade. It's a whole lot of stress off my shoulders, and now I can focus more on other classes that I've been neglecting. The scariest part of yesterday's review was when I was asked if I considered myself to be of the modern or post-modern thought process. I froze up and admitted I really didn't know what these two schools of thought were -- oops. Yeah, pretty embarrassing, and it didn't help that the review had just started and I was still really freaking out at this point.

Anyway, besides the photography aspect, how does this relate to this Michigan Architecture Blog? My portfolio consists of twelve photographs, all fragments of buildings from the northern portion of the state of Michigan. I don't want to get into my whole statement of intent (I'm incredibly sick of reading and retyping it at this point, believe me) -- but part of it was focusing on the gradual transformation that these buildings are going through, and how their current use and appearance is often far different than how they were originally imagined, five, seven, ten decades ago.


Cross Village
Cross Village











With the exception of the photograph of the mural taken in Cross Village (just south of the Mackinac Bridge), this portfolio was compiled entirely in the Upper Peninsula, where the buildings on Main Street have a very unique look and feel.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Long time, no post!

A year's gone by since I've last updated this blog, and after some (fortunate) persuasion by several people, I've finally convinced myself that it's high time to continue posting here. I don't want to include too much personal stuff on this blog, but life's been a little crazy for the past eleven months, and certainly quite busy. College, friends, and internet culture kind of takes over, and all of a sudden, you find you aren't updating things like you used to! Anyway, hopefully that's over, and I can continue to post photographs and information here, celebrating Michigan's architecture.

After a long, eventful summer of working with the photographs at the U of M Clements Library, I'm back in Marquette, for my junior year at Northern Michigan University. I'm taking four art classes this semester, including the dreaded AD 303 Individual Art Review -- wait, I suppose I should backtrack a little, back to my work over the summer. Working at the Clements was, to put it simply, amazing. The project was financed by the Michigan Photographic Historical Society and it was one of the best learning experiences I've ever had. My job was to reorganize the photography collection -- and it was a huge, but rewarding project.

The Clements Library's photograph collection is primarily comprised of American vernacular photography -- that is, photographs showing everyday life, family pictures, and city scenes -- as opposed to fine art photography. I had the opportunity to view all kinds of cartes de visite, matted photographs, cabinet cards, and, most interesting of all, photograph albums. Thanks to MiPHS member David Tinder, there are hundreds -- thousands -- of photographs of Michigan alone, and seeing those was particularly fascinating.

For example, I had no idea that Marquette suffered a major fire back in the mid-1800s. There were several views of the city, dating from, if I remember correctly, the 1870s, where the buildings downtown were built from wood -- and I learned soonafter that Marquette had burned. Replacing the destroyed wooden structures were stone buildings, many of which remain today.

In any case, the job was fascinating, rewarding, and very educational. If you're in the Ann Arbor area and interested in what the Clements Library does, I highly recommend stopping by. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture on the University of Michigan's campus -- designed by Albert Kahn in 1922 in the Italian Renaissance style, it is a very graceful, ornate structure, inside and out.

So, here I am, now, in Marquette, living off-campus with my best friend Ashlee, in an apartment right across the street from Lake Superior. It's amazing -- no, incredibly awesome to be away from the dorms and away from all the hubbub and noise that is NMU. We're minutes away from downtown, seconds away from the lake, and a twenty-minute walk from campus.

I mentioned earlier AD 303 -- Individual Art Review -- the pass-or-fail class that determines whether or not you can continue being an art major. It's a serious-business course, and at the end of it all, you must have a prepared statement of intent and extensive portfolio that you show to various members of the Art and Design staff. It's a big deal. As far as that portfolio goes, I've got a general idea of what I want to do (and I'd better, because the first draft of that statement of intent is due next week!) -- unsurprisingly, it involves theaters, from both an artistic and preservationist standpoint.

I'll go into more detail in later posts, as my idea is developed and refined, but look for updates as the semester continues, and as I stress myself out into an unintelligible pile of goo!

Until then, enjoy a few views of our great state's architecture.

How about a Great Lakes lighthouse? Eagle Harbor's lighthouse, taken the first week of May, right after the Winter '08 semester had ended. It was still snowing in the Keweenaw Peninsula, much to the chagrin of my father and myself.

A pair of bad architectural additions on display in Cheboygan, back from April of this year. I'd like to have a word with whoever approved these designs...

Working our way downstate and earlier into the year, here's an abstract view of some clashing architecture: the white columns of the Jiffy Mix factory rise up above the brick façades of downtown Chelsea.

I'll leave you with a night view of Houghton's Lode Theatre, taken during Michigan Tech's Winter Festival in February. As many people have told me, the interior of the theater building has been torn up and divided into several screens -- an unfortunate fate that many theaters have suffered. I'm motivating myself to finish my theater project and hopefully it will be completed soon. I've done the photography... and now it's time for the real work!

Over and out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Little Bit of Ironwood Architecture

A few weekends ago, I visited Ironwood with my roommate and suitemates. It was the first time I've been to that part of the state, and I can assure you, it's absolutely beautiful. On the way there, the fall colors were at their peak (though they have not gotten there yet here in Marquette) and the trees were simply gorgeous. The main reason I wanted to go to Ironwood was to photograph the historic Ironwood Theatre -- the very last Michigan theater left for me to see! There were other architectural treats to be seen, as well.

Luther L. Wright High School

The Luther L. Wright High School, built in 1924.

Luther L. Wright High School

The high school has some fantastic exterior details surrounding its front door and windows! Of course, my friends thought I was an über-geek, photographing the building, but... Really, if my high school had looked this awesome, it would have made the experience that much better.

Luther L. Wright High School

A detail on the terra cotta embellishments that surround the school's main entrance.

Now, moving on to Ironwood's beautiful main-street cinema:

Ironwood Theatre -- FINALLY DONE!

Here's the Ironwood Theatre, the last on my list of historic movie theaters to photograph! It was well worth the wait, the 3.5-hour drive, and the pouring rain along the way. I couldn't get inside the theater, unfortunately, but I hear it carries a classical theme with murals that depict gryphons and other mythical creatures.

According to, the Ironwood Theatre was built in 1928, designed as a silent movie and vaudeville palace. The architect was Albert Nelson, and the cost of the building was $160,000.

Ironwood Theatre detail

Gryphons atop a side door on the Ironwood Theatre.

Ironwood Theatre Griffon

Gryphons adorn the theater's marquee, as well.

Ironwood Theatre Marquee

Lastly, the Ironwood Theatre's marquee, lit up for a night performance! It was wonderful to see the neon and the light bulbs flashing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Huron Mountain Club: Ives Lake

The Huron Mountain Club, northwest of Big Bay in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County, has been the subject of much local lore and speculation for the last century. It's a place that only a select amount of people get to see, let alone visit; the lucky few are either the long-time residents whose families have been club members for generations, or scientists who receive grants to study the local fauna. The area is rich in history and wildlife, and while the Club can be quite secretive, it always welcomes researchers. I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit and stay at the club many times over the years, as my father, at the time, was studying the native insect species. Whenever we stayed, my family would be hosted at the Stone House on Ives Lake, perhaps the most beautiful area on the Huron Mountain Club's property.

Stone House

The Stone House sits right at the edge of Ives Lake, a glacial lake that is very deep and cold, carved out of the granite bedrock tens of thousands of years ago. The water laps at the stone walls of the cabin, and a porch encircles three of the structure's four sides. It is constructed from large logs hewn from the nearby hillsides, and granite taken from the area. The downstairs portion of the Stone House consists of a large kitchen and small dining area -- all quite rustic -- as well as a spacious area for researchers to work, a bathroom that once functioned as a darkroom, and a large living room. The fireplace in the living room, which is no longer used, has an inscription on the mantle that reads There is no defeat in truth, save from within; unless you're beaten there, you're bound to win. Bedrooms and bathrooms fill the second floor of the Stone House. Some rooms overlook Ives Lake; those are the very best to be in. I remember some mornings, where I'd wake up at dawn, and the gray of the sky matched the gray of the lake; the only sound would be the singing of the loons. The Stone House also has a basement and an attic.

Red House

The Red House sits next to the Stone House. Both were built in the early 1900s (the exact date escapes me at this time), although at this time, the Red House is not being used. Club members are, however, working to get the Red House restored so that researchers can use it (the Stone House, believe it or not, does get very crowded in the summer months). The building is structurally sound and looks relatively untouched since its last use -- a time that I'd venture to be the 1970s. Unlike the Stone House, the Red House features a more Shingle Style -type of appearance. Next to the Red House is the caretaker's house, and beyond that is the Barn, which, after being threatened for some time, is very much safe and is in the very best interest of the Huron Mountain Club.

Architectural Element

When we visited the Club in late August of this year, there were several changes to be seen. The structure adjoining the two silos had been demolished and the Oldsmobile inside was gone; the new caretaker had also cleaned up around the Stone House, improving the garden and moving two very curious architectural elements to decorate the pathway. He explained that he'd been in the field across from the barn when he'd found the two chunks of limestone (a stone not native to the area), decorated in the floral motifs of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. They had both most likely stood at the doorway of the barn that was once located where the field is today -- but where did they come from? Had Longyear purchased these elements in his travels and decided to bring them north? It's an interesting mystery.

One of these days, I would like to return to the Huron Mountain Club and continue a photographic survey of the area; the beautiful and rustic architecture is something that is very uncommon these days. The lack of paved roads and the banning of motor boats has kept the property peaceful and clean, and there seems to be a resurgence in interest among the younger generations of club members.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Last month, Preservation Wayne held their annual Detroit Theater Tour, which I attended for the first time. It was a very fun and informative day in downtown Detroit; our group, which was made up of about two dozen people, was led through the heart of the city, walking down Woodward Avenue to tour the Fox Theatre and State Theatre. We were taken inside the former Michigan Theatre, which now serves as a parking structure, as well as the Detroit Opera House (formerly the Capitol Theatre) and the Gem Theatre. An additional treat was getting the opportunity to see what was left of the Oriental Theatre which, until that afternoon, had not been visible to the general public.

I was so overloaded with information that when I got back home, I crashed and slept for a very, very long time!

Because this blog has generally always featured the exteriors of our state's architecture, I thought it might be good to break the mold and include some interior photographs from the tour. I took many pictures, some I was more happy with than others (next time, I am so bringing a tripod because, yes, there is time to use it during the tour). Most of my favorite photographs, however, were the lobbies of these various theaters.

State Theatre lobby

The State Theatre (now called The Fillmore)

Detroit Opera House

The Detroit Opera House, C. Howard Crane's first movie palace. The lobby was too small and it caused problems when the crowds were huge!

Fox Theatre Lobby

The lobby of the magnificent Fox Theatre.

It is amazing just how many theaters C. Howard Crane designed in the state of Michigan. What's even more impressive is the fact that each and every one is quite different from the next.

Watch for more frequent updates! I've started college at Northern Michigan University again, I've got more downtime, and I'm realizing that a lot of people read this blog.