House of the Poet

In 1995 a project was initiated to create a living monument to honor Cranbrook’s dedication to poetic imagination. The project, House of the Poet, was to be built on the ridge overlooking Lake Jonah and would honor works of imagination in art, sciences, and letters. Architect and educator, John Hejduk (1929-2000), was commissioned to develop plans for the building.

Hejduk largely abstained from conventional practice, but is known for his drawings that were combined into poetic and often highly personal narratives. Despite completing relatively few buildings, Hejduk is considered one of the most influential architects and theorists of the twentieth century. In an essay about Hejduk, architect Andreas Angelidakis states, “His drawings and writings, his essential approach to architecture, continue to function as a blueprint for a practice without clients, commissions, or even realization. What he built was a world of images and words.”

Exterior drawing, House of the Poet. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Exterior drawing, House of the Poet. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Hejduk designed a house built on stilts that included a bedroom, bath, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The plan was to create a space where “esteemed visitors” to the campus could stay. The exterior consisted of stucco in green, red, blue, and gunmetal, with a zinc roof.

Sketch of Scheme 1: interior paneling.

Sketch of Scheme 1: interior paneling.

In the fall of 1995, architects Dan Hoffman and Jennifer Lee of the Cranbrook Architecture Office (CAO) worked towards the project’s completion. Faculty and students from the Academy of Art’s Department of Architecture would provide the majority of the labor for the construction of the building, continuing the tradition of the integration of arts and crafts in the original buildings on campus. The CAO created extensive cost estimations and budgets, and thoroughly researched available materials for the construction of the house.

Digital model of the House of the Poet - view from Academy Way with the sculpture of Jonah and Whale in the foreground.

Digital model of the House of the Poet – view from Academy Way with the sculpture of Jonah and the Whale in the foreground.

Project correspondence indicated plans to complete the building in time to coincide with a 1997 exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum honoring the work of John Hejduk. The project seemed set to move forward, however, due to lack of sufficient funding, was canceled.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Special thanks to Rebecca Kallen (CKU ‘08) who contributed to the research of this blog.

A Model and a Memory

Earlier this year, my boss dropped an interesting flier on my desk for me to investigate. It was advertising a show of the celebrated Detroit born, New York based photographer Judy Linn at the Susanne Hilberry Gallery in Ferndale, Michigan. The flier featured Linn’s photograph, “Man and Boat, July 12, 1972.”

judy-linn-ad-hilberry-gallery

Flier for Judy Linn’s show at the Hilberry Gallery featuring her photograph, “Man and Boat, July 12, 1972.”

Here on the first floor of Cranbrook House we have a remarkably similar model that belonged to the Booths. Model ship building was certainly a popular hobby throughout the twentieth century, but perhaps there was a Cranbrook connection between our ship and the one in the picture?

cec-1918-1-ship-from-cranbrook-house

Cranbrook’s Ship: Ye Triumphe Ship, Henry Brundage Culver, 1918. CEC1918.1

 

I reached out to Linn to find out more about her picture, and to see if she remembered anything about the man or the boat. Linn, who is perhaps best known for her photographs documenting New York’s music and art scene in the 1970s, informed me that from July 1972 to February 1973, she photographed for a small newspaper in southern Macomb County. It was part of the Detroit Area Weekly News (known colloquially as DAWN), and she took this picture at a local city hall where someone had just donated the ship.

I followed up with the city halls and libraries Ms. Linn thought it could have been (Warren, Roseville, or St. Clair Shores), but no one still has this ship hanging around. I was surprised at the amount of people who knew that there were ships “in the basement, somewhere” and I appreciated them taking time to go check and see if they were the boat in question (it was never a match).

Although I can’t make a connection between the boat in Linn’s photo and the one in Cranbrook House, the best part of this journey into the weeds was hearing Ms. Linn’s reflections of her time at Cranbrook. She shared with me this wonderful recollection, and agreed let me post it here:

“I was happy to get your email. I am very very fond of Cranbrook. When I was ten my mother got a Master’s degree in weaving form the Art Academy. I thought her fellow art students were the most extraordinary people on earth. I even copied their clothes for my paper dolls. If possible I wanted to be just like them. Later I realized it wasn’t just the art students. It was the submersion in a totally designed environment, complete down to the Saarinen designed fork in the Kingswood dining room. I loved it and I still love it.”

If you are in New York, check out Linn’s current show at the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery, up through this weekend, and if you want to know more about Cranbrook’s boat, check out former Center Collections Fellow Stefanie Kae Dlugosz-Acton’s fascinating post!

-Kevin Adkisson, Center Collections Fellow

Tree Falls on Shoe Falls: A Story of Restoration

This week’s post is from a new guest contributor, Ryan Pfeifer. Ryan works with Cranbrook’s Capital Projects Office, and we hope to feature more of his (and Capital Projects) work to preserve our historic campus in the future! -Ed.

Nestled in the forest between the Greek Theatre and Triton Pools sits an overlook known as Shoe Falls.* While researching original drawings at Cranbrook Archives, I discovered that the pond, waterfall, and overlook were designed in 1941 by Cranbrook’s civil engineer, John Buckberrough, and constructed in 1943.

During a storm in mid-November 2016, a large tree fell onto the railing, fatally cracking two railing caps and dislodging seven balusters. Cranbrook’s Capital Projects Office was tasked with managing the restoration of this historic site on campus.

The first step in the restoration process was to carefully remove the stones and set them aside. This way, the grounds crew could remove the fallen tree. The cracked limestone railing caps were digitally measured and new pieces were ordered from a local stone fabricator, who purchases new limestone from Indiana. The baluster stones were reused but meticulously cleaned of old mortar, dirt and other debris. To make sure the railing replacement was to the highest quality possible, holes were drilled in the bottom slab and stainless steel pins were inserted. The pins were epoxied into place which permanently attaches them to the bottom slab and creates an anchor point for the baluster. A small bed of mortar was placed around the pin and the balusters were set on top of the mortar. Each baluster was leveled vertically and horizontally to ensure the stone caps would sit perfectly level.

The same procedure, with the epoxied pins and mortar, was performed on top of each baluster so the railing cap would be tied to the supporting elements below. Finally, the caps were set into place, again keeping a close eye on leveling and placement so everything was put back seamlessly. Come spring, the site will be fully restored by planting grass seed. Many thanks to the contractor and crew for an outstanding historic restoration project!

*The small pond which feeds the waterfall was initially named Shoe Lake and the waterfall did not have a specific name, however, over the years, the name Shoe Falls has been adopted for this entire area.

Ryan Pfeifer, Project Manager II, Cranbrook Capital Projects

May The Fork Be With You

 

 

forkeditedEliel Saarinen taught his students to always consider how the design of one object fits within the next largest context; the building within the city plan, the furniture within the room, down to the fork on the table. Kingswood School for Girls embodies this philosophy, and is considered a “total work of art” designed by the Saarinen family. But that doesn’t mean the Saarinens designed everything in the building: Eliel knew when to delegate, not only to his wife Loja, daughter Pipsan, and son Eero, but also to others, like rugs and fabrics in the school designed by Studio Loja Saarinen weavers Maja Andersson Wirde, Lillian Holm, and others.

Instrumental in decorating the school, Loja Saarinen also used her design eye to choose existing wares from the market to compliment the environment being created at Kingswood.  The 1938 Kingswood School Cranbrook Inventory of Equipment and Supplies is full of entries like this one from May 1934: “Voucher No. 5547, Nessen Studio, Inc., 18 Nut Dishes for Kingswood School (ordered by Mrs. Saarinen).”  The flatware in the Kingswood Dining Hall is another prime example of an existing design used to complete the Saarinens’ vision.

The International Silver Company was a conglomerate of New England silver producers formed in 1898. Subsidiaries of International Silver, like Rogers Bros. and Wilcox Silver Plate Company, continued using their marks on works created under the new organization.  The silver-plate pattern selected for the Kingswood School for Girls dining hall was the International Silver Company’s “Silhouette” pattern.  Though Eliel Saarinen collaborated as a designer with International Silver on a number of projects—including his famous Tea Urn and Tray—the “Silhouette” pattern was designed by Leslie A. Brown, who held a number of design patents while working for International Silver Company. “Silhouette” was produced under both the International Silver Company name and the 1847 Rogers brand.

hotel-management-1706-06-1930-sec-2-p-365

Advertisement from Hotel Management, Volume 17, Issue 6 (June 1930), Section 2, page 365.

The ladies of Kingswood used these beautiful pieces on Saarinen designed tables, with plates from the Syracuse China Company (hotel ware division) with a Saarinen-designed Kingswood School crest on them.  Dinners at Kingswood were formal affairs, so there were many pieces to each complete set of flatware.

detail-5696-4_junior_senior_banquet_kingswood_school_1941-june

Detail from an image of the Junior-Senior Banquet at Kingswood School, June 1941. Notice the “Silhouette” flatware, the crested serving ware, and the Saarinen-designed Silver Centerpiece (KS 1991.1). Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The 1938 Inventory lists the following forms purchased through Marshall Field & Company for use in the dining hall: Viande* Knives, Viande* Fork, Individual Salad Forks, Individual Fish Forks, Bouillon Spoons, Butter Spreaders, Teaspoons, Dessert Forks, Cocktail Forks, Dessert Spoons, Table Spoons, Coffee Spoons, Soup Ladles, and Cold-Meat Forks.  The flatware had a “Butler finish” – a matte or frosted finish — on 18% nickel silver blanks — a metal alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, highly resistant to corrosion and tarnish.  All pieces were marked “Kingswood School.”

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Viande fork (top of page), butter spreader, and bouillon spoon from the Cultural Properties Collection, Kingswood School for Girls. Courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

The flatware was used for everyday dining as well as more formal dinners, but as dining at Cranbrook became less formal and the student body increased in size, more utilitarian commercial-grade knives, spoons, and forks were introduced. Luckily, we still have many of these original pieces in storage for study and display.

*”Viande” is French for “meat” but in this case refers to a form of flatware with longer handles with shorter blades or tines.  It was supposed to fit more comfortably in the hands, advertised as having “smartness and being chic.”

Leslie S. Mio is the Assistant Registrar for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and the Cranbrook Art Museum.

 

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