Monday, April 21, 2008

The Fisher Building

The Fisher Building (1928) is an ornate skyscraper in the New Center area of Detroit, Michigan constructed of limestone, granite, and marble. Its roof was once adorned in gold which was removed for the air raid black outs during World War II. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 29, 1989, has been nicknamed Detroit's largest art object. Standing on the corner of West Grand Boulevard and Second Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, the Art Deco skyscraper lies in the heart of the New Center area of Detroit. The 30-story office building was designed by Albert Kahn and Associates with Joseph Nathaniel French as chief architect. The building was to house the automotive company Fisher Body of the Fisher brothers (Frederick, Charles, William, Lawrence, Edward, Alfred and Howard), and is widely considered Kahn's greatest achievement. The year of its construction, the Fisher building was honored by the Architectural League of New York as the year's most beautiful commercial structure. The opulent three-storybarrel vaulted lobby is constructed with 40 different kinds of marble, decorated by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti, and is highly regarded by architects.

(The side story...I'm headed back to the train from my weekend visit to Detroit and I make a pit stop to PURE DEtROIT in the Fisher Building to replenish my Detroit gear... a sign on the door says back in five min... so as I waited camera in hand I took a moment to appreciate the vaulted ceilings that make up this grand old building!)

Initially, Kahn planned for a complex of three buildings, with two 30-story structures flanking a third tower twice that height. However, the Great Depression kept the project at one tower.The Fisher brothers constructed the building across from the General Motors Building (Now Cadillac Place). General Motors had recently purchased the Fisher Body Company. The two massive buildings spurred the development of a New Center for the city, a business district north of its downtown area. The top of the building was gold gilt and topped with a radio antenna. One of the building's oldest tenants is radio station WJR, whose broadcasters often mention that their signals are broadcast "from the golden tower of the Fisher Building." Two other radio stations, WDVD-FM and WDRQ-FM, also broadcast from the building. On St. Patrick's Day, the golden tower is lit up with green light to celebrate the holiday instead of the traditional orange color. In recent years, to celebrate the NHL playoffs, the tower is lit with red light in honor of the Detroit Red Wings. The building also is home to the Fisher Theatre, one of Detroit's oldest live theatre venues. The theater originally featured a lavish Aztec-themed interior in the Mayan Revival style, and once had Mexican-Indian art and banana trees and live macaws that its patrons could feed. After the Depression, the theater operated primarily as a movie house until 1961. Originally with 3,500 seats, the interior was renovated with a 2,089-seat theater that allowed for more spacious seating for patrons. The decor was changed to a more simple mid-century design (which some feel is now far more "dated" in appearance than the grandiose art deco foyer). The Fisher Theatre is owned and operated by the Nederlander Organization and now primarily features traveling productions of Broadway shows.
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