midMOD monday is headed to Detroit. Catch the "Qube" on today's claass HAUS.
Constructed during Detroit's postwar boom (in 1950 the city was America's fifth largest city), the National Bank of Detroit building represents an aesthetic shift in the city's commercial architecture. Standing in contrast to the Neoclassical banks and office buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the National Bank of Detroit building is strikingly simple, its unapologetic geometric facade and landscaped esplanade a bold leap into the future.
Designed by prolific firm Albert Kahn Associates, the fourteen-story, steel-framed office block was originally part of a $50 million "facelift" to downtown Detroit. In 1957, on the site of the demolished Hammond Building (the city's first skyscraper), construction began on the uniquely patterned modernist highrise. The tower's most defining feature- a checkerboard curtain wall- is composed of white Georgia Cherokee marble panels alternating with small windows surrounded by gray porcelain-enamel spandrels and aluminum framing members. The innovative tapestry-like facade fuses modern forms and traditional materials to recall the preceding generation of nearby civic buildings.
Located on Woodward Avenue, the bank's ample 40-foot setback creates a generous open promenade enhanced with trees and well-manicured plantings. The landscaped outdoor space functions as an elegant transition to the long, horizontal steps that lead to the bank's impressive glass lobby (designed by well-established Detroit firm W.B. Ford Design Associates). Above, the upper stories of the building form a soaring box that rests on a recessed base ringed by a structural colonnade. At the time of its opening in 1959, the modern bank marked the first major construction project completed in Detroit in more than two decades.
After several changes in ownership, the National Bank of Detroit building, now called the "Qube," remains at the heart of Detroit's financial district, a checkered modernist box echoing the marble trappings of the city's civic monuments. Among the first buildings in the United States to use a staggered window curtain wall, the bank is a symbol of the city's turn toward modernism and a product of the postwar redevelopment that would have a profound impact on the city's people and architecture. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the bank underwent extensive renovations after it became the headquarters for Quicken Loans in 2011. You can see images of these renovations here.
Image at top:
By Andrew Jameson (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.