University Reformed Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, designed in 1960 and completed in 1964, is one of two projects of Mr. Birkerts’ first architectural firm, Birkerts and Straub, which are included in the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection. Considered by many to be one of his finest buildings, University Reformed Church is known for three characteristics which have become hallmarks of Mr. Birkerts’ expressive, organic architecture throughout his fifty-year career: the innovative use of indirect light, the massing of unadorned, bold forms, and the juxtaposition of symmetry and asymmetry. The wall planes of the church are illuminated by indirect daylight which enters through light boxes created by stiffening fins set a right angles to the upward-stepping, thin, concrete beams. The organic quality of this early, independent design is evident in the use of an asymmetrical altar to balance the basilica-like symmetry of the church nave, an interplay of opposites inspired by Mr. Birkerts’ love of the natural world. Further evidence of the architect’s interest in the juxtaposition of opposites is seen in the softness of wood used in the pews, railings and light fixtures which contrasts with the austerity of monumental, concrete, structural members.
Bund, Sally L. Finding Aid for Gunnar Birkerts Papers, 1930-2002: University Reformed Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1960-1986. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.