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Grosse Pointe Public Library

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1951–1953, Marcel Breuer; 2009 addition and renovation proposed, designLAB architects with DiClemente Siegel. 10 Kercheval Ave.

One of the most notable suburban libraries of the post–World War II era, the Grosse Pointe Public Library was possible because of the availability of a suitable site transferred by the school system and the generosity of Grosse Pointe resident Dexter M. Ferry Jr. At Ferry's suggestion, internationally known Bauhaus-trained architect Breuer of New York City was chosen to design the building. It was Breuer's first library.

The functional rectangular International Style library is 157 × 70 feet in plan. Its red brick exterior walls trimmed with sandstone harmonize with the nearby high school. A large glass wall, broken by wood muntins, extends the length of the two-story main reading room, making visible to the public on Kercheval the readers within. A narrow balcony inset within the wall plane runs the entire length of the second floor of the Fisher Avenue facade. In keeping his vision of the library “as a social, cultural and civic crystalization point [where] literature and art were to be made more accessible in an inviting homelike atmosphere,” Breuer furnished it and embellished it with art, according to historian Hawkins Ferry in a lecture at the library (February 14, 1954). An Alexander Calder mobile hangs at the west end of the main reading room and a photo mural designed by Herbert Matter is displayed in the adult reading room.

In 2007 the library board of trustees considered demolishing the building because it lacked sufficient space for administration, computers, and children's activities. Public concern for the irreplaceable landmark and its inclusion on the World Monument Fund's 2008 Watch List of the one hundred most endangered sites led the trustees to investigate alternatives. They responded to a conceptual plan from designLAB architects of Boston with DiClemente Siegel of Southfield to expand and renovate the existing library. The plan calls for doubling the space with a sympathetic addition to the historic building at the rear of the current building on a parking lot—something of a mirror image of Breuer's design. An interior courtyard will stand between. A new underground fifty-space parking garage will accommodate cars.

The World Monument Fund awarded the library a grant toward the preservation of the building and the library foundation is undertaking a capital campaign for expansion and renovation.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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