Architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer designed the Grosse Pointe Public Library in 1953. Breuer, a student of the Bauhaus, is most remembered for his Wassily Chair, a steel tube construction; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Breuer had a keen interest in modularity and simple forms. Breuer became involved in the design of the building in 1951 through his former student, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, resident, art and architecture aficionado, and occasional designer, W. Hawkins Ferry. The two met while Ferry studied under Breuer and Walter Gropius at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Though a simple box structure similar to Breuer’s other small-scale public buildings, Breuer envisioned this building as “the living room of the community.” It has design elements present in his other buildings such as simple linear lines and floor to ceiling windows that allow for an effortless transition between the interior and exterior. Instead of his standard use of concrete, Breuer used brick as a nod to the traditional architecture in Grosse Pointe. The interior features double height rooms with exposed structural elements, most notably in the ceiling slabs. The building also features notable works of art such as an Alexander Calder mobile and a Herbert Matter mural.
In 2007 the building was threatened with demolition to allow for a larger, more technological library. The library was listed in the 2008 World Monument Funds’s Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in order to bring attention to the theat. Through WMF’s Modernism at Risk initiative, Knoll, Inc., funded archival research that documented the history of the library, and the Marcel Breuer Library Preservation Fund was established by the Grosse Pointe Library Foundation to help preserve, restore, and update the building. The collaboration between these groups, and the efforts of community members saved this building from demolition, and has resulted in restoration and a context-sensitive expansion.
Archinect. “Grosse Pointe Central Library: Efforts Toward Conservation.” May 15, 2007.
Gallagher, John. “Breuer’s Grosse Pointe Library to Be Spared?” Architectural Record, September 25, 2007.
Vogel, Elizabeth M. “Grosse Pointe’s Bauhaus Building: Central Library.” GrossePointe.Patch.Com, May 29, 2011.
Vogel, Elizabeth M. “Grosse Pointe’s Wassily Kandinsky Tapestry.” GrossePointe.Patch.Com, June 12, 2011.
World Monuments Fund. “Main Street Modern.” 2008.