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State Capitol Complex

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1921–present, various architects. Bounded by Capitol Ave. and W. Allegan, Butler, and W. Ottawa sts.

The ten-block capitol complex, crossed by two depressed streets, Walnut and Pine, includes a landscaped mall/plaza over two levels of parking, with the focus on the monumental site sculpture This Equals That (1980) by Michael Heiser. Flanking the mall to the west of the capitol are four “calm and dignified” office buildings typical of the architecture of the 1960s: the Treasury Building (1968), the Stevens T. Mason Building (1953), the G. Mennen Williams Law Building (1968), and the Murray D. VanWagoner Transportation Building (1967). Farther west are the undistinguished twin South and North Ottawa Towers buildings (1983).

In his Comprehensive City Plan Report of 1921 Harland Bartholomew and Associates, city planning consultants of St. Louis, Missouri, encouraged a wider appreciation of the value of Lansing's dignified and impressive public buildings. He condemned, though, the practice of haphazard placement of these magnificent buildings. In particular, he cited the State Office Building (now the Lewis Cass Building) by Munson and Bowd with Albert Kahn, 1919–1922, and located several blocks southwest of the Capitol. He suggested that a new capitol, when needed, be placed on the site west of Pine Street between Ottawa and Allegan streets and that the intervening blocks between the present capitol grounds and the new site be developed as a mall, with subsidiary state buildings arranged on either side. Seventeen years later, in 1938, Bartholomew advocated a capitol complex that would be expressive of the dignity and importance of the state of Michigan, yet in harmony with the scale of Lansing.

After revising a similar Bartholomew plan of 1947, Smith, Hinchman and Grylls executed it in the 1960s. Until then only three state government buildings existed, the Michigan State Capitol ( IN3), the Lewis Cass Building, and the Stevens T. Mason Building. Many state workers housed in rented quarters throughout Lansing and the Capital Region moved into the office buildings next to the domed capitol. The Michigan Library and Historical Center, proposed in the Bartholomew and the Smith, Hinchman and Grylls plans, became a reality in 1986–1989. The Hall of Justice, completed in 2002, anchors the west axis from the Capitol.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "State Capitol Complex", [Lansing, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 286-286.

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