Residences situated within the heart of the San Francisco Bay blend the topography of the island with seamless indoor and outdoor living environs.
Coming soon: a chance to own a home in a distinct setting on a naturally formed island in the heart of San Francisco Bay, complete with panoramic views, wellness-minded amenities, and 72 acres of preserved space rife with parks, beaches, and hiking and biking trails—all just 10 minutes from downtown. When completed in 2021, Yerba Buena Island will feature 266 luxury condos, flats and townhomes (with The Agency Development Group starting sales in early 2020).
Residents of the project—developed by Wilson Meany and Stockbridge Capital Group—also will be privy to The Island Club, which includes a lounge, dining room, bar, game room, spa, sauna, massage room, fitness studio and outdoor lap pool. Says Chris Meany, Wilson Meany’s co-founder and managing partner: “We’ve enlisted a world-class team to create a place that celebrates the hallmarks of what drew people to San Francisco in the first place—a modern spirit, creative culture, laid-back atmosphere and surrounding natural beauty.”
YERBA BUENA ISLAND
Renew, Waikiki’s original boutique hotel, was reimagined in summer 2019 to offer travelers a new type of wellness experience centered around holistic Hawaiian healing.
Waikiki’s former Hotel Renew has been undergoing a multimillion-dollar redesign and rebranding led by Honolulu’s The Vanguard Theory and will debut as OLS Hotels and Resort’s new 72-room Renew retreat in July 2019, complete with a focus centered around holistic offerings. Expect the property to feature amenities and activities designed to connect guests to local wellness, fitness and beauty partners, including social and environmental experiences from bicycle tours to reviving a historic fish pond, astrology readings, beach yoga, aromatherapy crystals to enhance sleep and much more.
Also new: revamped guest rooms, corridors, lobby and lobby bar set amid an inviting yet chic mid-century minimalist meets tropical modern design boasting a palette of sandy neutrals, terra-cotta and pops of black. “Renew has been reimagined as an intimate retreat for those seeking a deeper connection to Hawai’i beyond its traditional tourist spots,” says General Manager Thomas Harris. “We look forward to providing our guests with meaningful and memorable stays.”
129 Paoakalani Ave. Honolulu, HI
PHOTOGRAPHS: HAYES DAVIDSON (TOP) AND RENEW (BOTTOM)
High production costs, opening delays—there’s been some drama for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, but nothing to derail a project with serious star power in design architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and a great deal of dedicated ambition to pull it all together. So when the Museum opens later this year, on Wilshire and Fairfax in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, and just in time for a new awards season, expect a blockbuster.
Renovating and expanding the Saban Building—originally a 1939 May Company—to accommodate the massive Museum (think 300, 000 square feet including exhibition spaces, cutting-edge theaters, a rooftop terrace and more) was a major order of business. Mating the historic architecture to the brand new Sphere Building was another, given that the globe-shaped showpiece with views of the Hollywood Hills serves both a functional purpose, uniting the main facets of the Museum, and a symbolic one.
“On the one hand, we are deeply rooted in Los Angeles and its great history of filmmaking, as suggested by the landmark Streamline Moderne architecture of the Saban Building,” explains Director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Kerry Brougher. On the other, he adds: “We are global in our outlook on film culture and deeply interested in the possible futures of filmmaking, as suggested by the futuristic form of the Sphere Building.”
A plot twist: the structure also reckons with history. In the early 20th century, dirigibles landed at the airfields that used to operate along what is now Miracle Mile, and while the Sphere Building “is not a direct reference to the dirigibles,” says Brougher, “Renzo Piano has spoken about it as one of his inspirations when thinking about the David Geffen Theater as a transportation and time machine.”
Due to this richness of narrative, the way that one accesses the buildings is paramount—Saban to Sphere is best. “You have to take the journey through film history to enter the Sphere Building, which hovers a little above the ground like a transportation device, ready to take you into the imaginative voyage of cinema,” explains Brougher. “By connecting the two structures with glass bridges, the architectural design suggests how the future of film is linked inextricably to the great cinematic achievements of the past.”
Further behind the scenes of the architecture is the partial influence that scale and proportion of the original May Company had on shaping the new building. Along with literal points of connection like the bridges, the “physical offset between the two buildings…and the structuring of the visitor circulation upwards, around, and back and forth, allows for a dramatic procession experiencing light and shadow, history and future, of architecture and film,” says Daniel Hammerman, architect, Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Curved forms, linear modular elements, and aerodynamic design relate to the new building design as well. “And both buildings are massive yet give an impression of lightness—the Saban Building’s stone façade is softened by curving stone corners and flying canopies; the new Sphere Building is lightened by an outer skin of glazing and slender stairs…” adds Hammerman. In the age of the Hollywood spectacle, it’s nice to still that character development still counts in this town. academymuseum.org
PHOTOGRAPH: ACADEMY MUSEUM OF MOTION PICTURES, DOLBY FAMILY TERRACE ©RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP/©ACADEMY MUSEUM FOUNDATION.
When ProsPac Holdings Group’s 41-story Azure Ala Moana residential tower debuts at the corner of Keeaumoku and Makaloa streets in downtown Honolulu the summer of 2021, expect 330 condos and 78 rental apartments boasting HBA-designed interiors featuring stunning ocean, mountain and city views; floor-to-ceiling windows; extra-large sliding glass lanai doors; elegant 7-foot, solid core wood entry doors; and plush, high-end carpet in living rooms and bedrooms.
Then there’s the amenities: 20,000-plus square feet of retail and dining offerings on the building’s ground- and second-level plaza, plus a resort-style pool and cabanas, fitness center, club room, puppy park, guest suites for family and friends, and more. “Azure Ala Moana embodies the heart of downtown Honolulu in both physical location and strong cultural roots,” says Rick Stack, ProsPac’s executive vice president. “The residents of our urban oasis will pioneer the rediscovery of a diverse, active, and authentic neighborhood.” Sales already have begun, with prices starting at the mid 600,000’s for a one-bedroom.
AZURE ALA MOANA
641 Keeaumoku St. Honolulu, HI
By the time the holiday season rolls around, guests seeking a grand hotel experience rife with adventure and top-notch service will find it at Mexico’s new Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas. Think an idyllic respite set on 1,000 acres overlooking the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains and Sea of Cortez, complete with contemporary Guerin Glass Architects-designed accommodations in the form of 141 guestrooms and 23 suites offering sea views and private terraces.
Visitors will be privy to five dining options, a spa and wellness center, the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course, a private marina, and endless adventures from snorkeling to horseback riding. “We are fully prepared that this part of Cabo is about to become the worst best-kept secret in the world,” says General Manager Borja Manchado. “Once our guests get a taste of the lifestyle here, I’m quite sure they will begin planning their next visit even before the first one is over.”
FOUR SEASONS RESORT LOS CABOS AT COSTA PALMAS
PHOTOGRAPHS: AZURE ALA MOANA (TOP) AND FOUR SEASONS RESORT LOS CABOS AT COSTA PALMAS (BOTTOM)
Feast your eyes on one of the priciest properties for sale in the Caribbean at $25 million. Nestled on 132 oceanfront acres at Half Moon Bay Antigua—an ultra-luxury resort and residential development featuring 3,200 feet of white coral sand, along with access to on-site amenities including a biodynamic farm, cocktail lounge and spa—the Mellon Estate previously was owned by philanthropist Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon and now is on the market for the first time in 50-plus years.
As part of the purchase price, the buyer will enjoy the opportunity to use the Dutch design firm Studio Piet Boon to create a bespoke residence on the 3-acre parcel of land. “The Mellon estate will truly be one of the greatest homes in the world, starting atop a cliff and cascading down to vast ocean views,” says Half Moon Bay Antigua CEO William Anderson. “It’s unlike anything in the Caribbean.
HALF MOON BAY ANTIGUA
Be on the lookout for the first Tiger Woods-designed golf course on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, coming soon to the 644-acre, mixed-used Mākaha Valley Resort development. One of two layouts at the property commissioned by Toronto-based golfing network Pacific Links International, Woods’ TGR Design will execute the Mākaha North Course, while Gil Hanse (creator of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Course) will craft the Mākaha South Course. Expect the North Course to include links set high atop the Pacific amid lush, rolling terrain beneath the Waianae Mountain Range, where players will encounter vast fairways dotted with bunkers.
According to a statement by Woods: “The cathedral-like setting of the property is framed with big ocean views to the west and towering mountains to the east. We are designing a golf course that will take advantage of this spectacular setting, yet still be fun and playable for golfers of all abilities.”
MAKAHA VALLEY RESORT
84-626 Makaha Valley Rd., Waianae, Oahu, HI
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF HALF MOON BAY ANTIGUA (TOP) AND PACIFIC LINKS INTERNATIONAL (BOTTOM)
When it came to finding the ideal spot for the first Godfrey Hotel on the West Coast, Oxford Hotels & Resorts settled on a parcel of land a block south of Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood surrounded by technology and entertainment companies, high-rise apartments, retail, restaurants and nightlife.
Think all of the energy and excitement of Sunset Boulevard combined with the history and glamour of the Hollywood Palladium and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with guests of the modern, Steinberg Hart-designed property placed squarely in the middle of one of the most storied and symbolic neighborhoods in the city.
“The Godfrey Hotel Hollywood opens amid a new era for the area, with the return or debut of several major entertainment, tech and creative houses to the neighborhood (Netflix, CNN and Viacom, to name a few), while long-standing favorites of pop culture, like Amoeba Records, share its block,” says Oxford Capital Principal Sarang Peruri. “Over 25 major development projects are slated this year, including a 100-percent increase in residential units and the $450 million, mixed-use destination Academy on Vine.”
Situated at 1400 Cahuenga Blvd., and set to open in August, the seven-story, 75,000-square-foot hotel is Oxford Capital’s fourth Godfrey Hotel and will feature glam, retro-chic environs crafted by The Gettys Group. Expect artistic and creative touches—such as oversized metal sculptures and dichroic glass that changes color as the light hits it—and 220 guest rooms sporting black-and-white finishes, tufted headboards, custom brass light fixtures, and opulent baths boasting rain showers and artistic wallcoverings, all in a palette of smoky green and blush pink.
Look for a SoCal-centric dining experience led by Executive Chef Dorian Southall at About Last Knife, with menu items including regionally sourced, Southland-inspired dishes such as Tomahawk Shortrib Mole and Whole Roasted Pacific Snapper, and a curated bar program offering seasonal cocktails, local craft beers and global whiskeys.
Rounding out the offerings is a ground-level al fresco courtyard and wine bar, and the i|O Godfrey rooftop and pool lounge—the largest rooftop space in Hollywood at 11,600 square feet, replete with film screenings and rotating art via a 28-foot projection mapping wall, and unparalleled views of the Hollywood Hills and Downtown L.A.
“The Godfrey Hotel’s high-energy restaurant, nightlife and events venues, carefully curated guestrooms and artwork throughout will be a complementary addition to the neighborhood,” says the hotel’s general manager, Clay Andrews. “It will provide a new cultural hotspot for locals and travelers alike.”
Montage Laguna Beach unveiled a head-to-toe makeover in March, complete with improvements to the property’s lobby, lounge and accommodations. Expect a view of the Pacific from a framed window in the lobby, as well as new Brazilian cherry wood flooring and California-coastal furniture in the lobby and popular lobby lounge.
The 253 updated guestrooms (including suites and bungalows) now boast a muted color palette accented by vibrant pops of steel blue, violet, yellow and chartreuse, along with sustainably sourced furnishings and amenities such as candles by Laguna Candles (with a Montage-specific scent), Matouk throw blankets, and champagne buckets and dog bowls hand-sculpted by the artists of Tina Frey.
“In keeping with the comfortable and classical-chic feel, the resort has always had, we have enhanced the guest experience with refreshed common areas and modernized guestrooms,” says Montage Laguna Beach General Manager Anne-Marie Houston. “And we have raised our own bar to our ongoing commitment to sustainability throughout the resort at all levels.”
MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH
30801 S. Coast Hwy. Laguna Beach, CA
Waikiki’s newest luxury boutique hotel is now accepting online reservations in advance of its Oct. 25 debut. Halekulani Corp.’s Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani—situated adjacent to its sister property, Halekulani—will include 284 guestrooms and four suites with ocean views.
New York City-based interior design firm Champalimaud was tapped to design the land- and water-themed accommodations and public spaces, with local artwork from the Honolulu Museum of Art complementing the decor.
The property also will feature the casual Halekulani Bakery & Restaurant, complete with a variety of pastries, cakes and artisan breads by a baker from the renowned Imperial Hotel Tokyo. Rates range from $350 to $1,100, based on double occupancy.
PHOTOGRAPHS: MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH (TOP) AND HALEPUNA WAIKIKI BY HALEKULANI (BOTTOM)
When the exiled Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky came to Coyoacan, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City, he did so at the invitation of artist Frida Kahlo (and the man she married twice, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera).
Trotsky and his wife were welcomed at Frida’s family home Casa Azul, the Blue House, a blue as bold as the woman who was born there, died there, and spent time recovering from a horrendous, life-threatening trolley accident that left her bed-ridden, in a body cast, and alone to explore self-portraiture.
Casa Azul is a portrait of Frida, as well. Constructed in 1904, with a colonial typology, the composition lacks a significant physical configuration (its floor plan, which placed adjoining rooms around a courtyard, was typical of the period), but its engagement with community and culture makes it a building of great consequence, greater than the sum of its parts, and sensitive to poetics.
The home’s original architect is unknown, but Frida’s mannerly father Guillermo, a photographer with an interest in architecture, likely espoused his opinions about its design. While not architecturally experimental, Casa Azul was more than comfortable, a single-story structure with four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and servants’ quarters. Plants filled the patio.
Tall windows, French doors and elements of French decorative style on the exterior were fashionable touches. Many books and a German piano certainly helped nurture a sense of the artistic in a growing Frida.
This rich history reverberates through the halls of the current Casa Azul, a world of Frida’s creation, its vivacious palette characteristic of her work and life alike—her artistic depictions, like her dress, are vivid, expressing cultural and feminine identity and strong politics. Ornamented similarly, the house features photos of Lenin, Stalin and Mao, pre-Hispanic artifacts, mirrors and butterflies, and a show of Frida’s constrictive, spine-correcting corsets.
Modifications and expansions have been made to the house, including a wing that Diego constructed, but arguably the most of momentous transformation—its cobalt-blue painted façade—turned the building into art itself. The robust color sets off an oasis of greenery, and the red of its pre-Hispanic pyramid, which serves to integrate Mexico’s indigenous history.
The strong assertion of blue on the exterior gives way to an interior of bright-green trim and yellow accents that highlight a trove of Mexican treasures—crafts, pre-Hispanic artifacts, personal belongings and fascinating works of art by both Frida and Diego.
Rechristened the Frida Kahlo Museum in 1958, four years after her death, at which time Diego bequeathed the building to Mexico, the destination receives art and culture lovers across the world. Magically, visitors find the folkloric charm of Casa Azul in Frida and Diego’s day is much the same. One element, in particular, leaves a lasting impression: Frida’s 1954 work whose name is what Casa Azul still represents—Long Live Life. museofridakahlo.org
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF FRIDA KAHLO & DIEGO RIVERA ARCHIVES. BANK OF MEXICO, FIDUCIARY IN THE DIEGO RIVERA AND FRIDA KAHLO MUSEUM TRUST
Seeing itself as a custodian of historic residential buildings, Wilshire Skyline has had its eye on a one-of-a-kind, historic landmarked property in the heart of Hollywood for quite some time—a Mediterranean Revival-style apartment-hotel known as The Commodore that was developed in 1927 by contractor Samuel F. Bard & Co. and architectural designer Lewis A. Smith.
Fast-forward to today, and the L.A.-based real estate management and development company have dedicated approximately $10 million to transform the notable structure into The Commodore of Hollywood by Wilshire Skyline, complete with residential and hotel-style accommodations boasting modern luxuries and top-of-the-line amenities geared toward renters and travelers alike.
“Our renovation seeks to revive the building’s old Hollywood beauty and truly pay homage to the era in which it was constructed,” says Alan Nissel, principal of Wilshire Skyline. “By breathing new life into the building, we are offering residents and guests a truly special opportunity to experience old Hollywood luxury priced within reach. Our standout offerings, matched with the building’s prime location, are ideal for creatives and professionals who yearn to live like a local and have easy access to every L.A. urban expectation.”
Situated at 1830 N Cherokee Ave.—within walking distance to Vine Street, Hollywood Boulevard, Musso & Frank Grill, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and Runyon Canyon—the Killefer Flammang Architects and Studio Preveza-designed building is expected to be completed by mid-April. Expect some of the most outstanding details to be preserved (“to give it a sense of being a time capsule,” says Nissel), including an ornate entry portico, molding, arched openings, a decorative stone fireplace, and terrazzo flooring.
Accommodations will include 73 pet-friendly residences and nine hotel-style units ranging from 350 to 810 square feet, and featuring abundant natural light, soaring ceilings, hardwood flooring, spacious walk-in closets, and eat-in kitchens.
The studio and one-bedroom residences will be available furnished or unfurnished, with prices ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 per month and guest suites available for a nightly rate. Among the perks: free Wi-Fi, housekeeping, 24/7 concierge services, secured parking, a private dog park and state-of-the-art wellness workout center with Peloton bikes and virtual trainers. commodorehollywood.com
PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF JESÚS BAÑUELOS
North Lake Tahoe’s Crystal Bay community is remaking its history by welcoming a Silver LEED-certified mixed-use redevelopment offering 59 residences; a 275-room, five-star hotel; wellness spa; boutique shops and galleries; and casino. Kicking off the first phase is Granite Place, consisting of 18 two- to four-bedroom condos ranging from 1,641 to 2,718 square feet and featuring spa and barbecue terraces overlooking the lake, as well as access to resort-like amenities such as 24/7 concierge services such as car detailing and pet grooming. An added bonus to purchasing a mountain retreat in the new neighborhood?
“Nevada continues to have one of the least-burdensome tax structures in the nation, offering buyers the opportunity to invest or live at Granite Place while taking advantage of Lake Tahoe’s tax-free north shore,” says the project’s developer, Heather Bacon. Sales already have begun on the condos, with prices ranging from $1.65 to $2.9 million and completion set for late spring.
1 Big Water Drive Crystal Bay, Nevada
The former Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows on the Big Island of Hawaii has been undergoing a $100 million-plus redesign and revitalization and will be reborn as Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection in late 2019. Expect the transformed resort to feature 32 Hart Howerton-designed oceanfront acres dotted with sacred royal fishing ponds, natural lava plains, tropical gardens and white-sand beaches, along with public areas and guest rooms done by Meyer Davis.
Among the highlights: ocean-front and ocean-view suites offering panoramic coastal views; ultra-luxe bungalows with private pools and butler service; two signature restaurants; a 5,000-square-foot fitness facility; spa; and an infinity-edge adult pool and lounge with cabanas. Adding to the lineup is Auberge’s signature adventures program, with activities including standup paddle boarding and outrigger canoeing. “Mauna Lani’s show-stopping features will evoke the senses—from the visually captivating design aesthetic to the soul-stirring experiential programming—for a thoughtfully crafted journey,” says General Manager Sanjiv Hulugalle.
MAUNA LANI, AUBERGE RESORTS COLLECTION
68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive,
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF BOULDER BAY (TOP) AND MAUNA LANI, AUBERGE RESORTS COLLECTION (BOTTOM)
For years Angelenos walked or jogged along a concrete-encased tributary of the L.A. River in Valley Glen, its painted flank part of the Great Wall of Los Angeles—a vibrant mural depicting California’s ethnic peoples.
To how much thought was given to what was flowing beneath the surface of the river is unclear. But we can now report: trash, entirely too much of it, that has since been retrieved from the waterway to be repurposed in an ambitious cultural project called the Art Bridge.
That it was a group of artists who started the ball rolling on what began as a nonprofit initiative is, in a sense, creative par for the course. Artists are originators of the new and provocative; change agents and revolutionaries, a force for social good.
Not unlike the group of artists who in 2009 could see the writing on the wall—not the mural, but the dilapidated wooden pedestrian bridge that desperately needed to be replaced.
They prevailed upon L.A.-based wHY Architecture, an interdisciplinary design practice serving the arts, culture, communities and the environment, to help. “I was excited, and went to look at it,” says wHY founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast, who as project architect, has been working on bringing about a replacement for the original bridge with muralist Judith Baca of the Social and Public Art Resource (SPARC).
Prompted by Baca’s vision, the Art Bridge was conceived to fuse art and architecture, and reflect the state of the L.A. River, which made Yantrasast “amazingly angry,” he confesses.
After his initial reaction of “What? This is the river? It is the worst irrigation trash!” he thought, “If this is how people treat the river, then we need to give the river back to them . . . like you are your river. So we collected all this trash and threw it into the bridge.”
Simple and streamlined, edged and angular, the 1,200-square-foot Art Bridge will take a modern shape and be constructed substantially from trash salvaged from the river. Concrete walls cast with bottle glass, cans, Styrofoam, dirt, and debris. A floor and pavement made from recycled tires, tennis balls, and scrap metal.
A guardrail made from recycled parts of shopping carts scattered in the riverbed. “The striation and layers of salvaged trash and materials integrated in the bridge will speak to the many generations of development and consumption by people living by the river,” says Yantrasast.
When complete, the Art Bridge will connect both banks of the river for pedestrians from Valley Glen and Los Angeles Valley College, and also be a viewing platform from which to experience the Great Wall, now an L.A. landmark. In this way, it is best to interpret the structure as a bridge far beyond the physical. It’s a merging, of people and a place—a place doing its part to help the planet. why-site.com
PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF WHY ARCHITECTURE
A cherished get away once owned by a young Montecito couple has been reborn as Rosewood Miramar Beach, the only five-star hotel in California offering guestrooms perched directly over the sand. Owned and developed by Caruso, Rosewood Hotels & Resort’s first property in Southern California exudes a residential feel in keeping with its iconic ancestor.
Think relaxed coastal environs boasting 161 guestrooms paired with a modern approach to the resort experience. Among the highlights: the centerpiece Manor House with a trio of signature suites; ocean-front beach accommodations; seven restaurants and bars; a new wellness shop for Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand goop; and a 600-piece art collection showcasing original works by the likes of Norman Rockwell.
“Combining Rosewood’s signature residential style with intuitive and engaging service, the resort offers a truly unique experience that makes guests feel as if they are visiting a private home,” says Managing Director Seán Carney. “Rosewood Miramar Beach offers the perfect place for all of life’s moments.”
ROSEWOOD MIRAMAR BEACH
1759 Jameson Ln. Montecito, CA
On the heels of a $6.5 million renovation and rebranding in 2014 that included updated guest rooms and suites, the 286-room Hilo Hawaiian Hotel on the Big Island is tackling the redo of its lobby. The $1.6 million project, set to debut at the iconic ocean-front property in April, will include a new contemporary and open yet intimate space inspired by the surrounding beauty of Hawaii.
Expect organic textures, colors and materials, along with natural wood flooring and trim complemented by coral stone and warm, dark wood accents. Updated technology also is on the roster, including the addition of touch-screen directories, monitors and charging ports.
“The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is an award-winning Hawaii icon on Hilo’s famous and historical Banyan Drive,” says Castle Resorts & Hotels President and CEO Alan Mattson. “We are proud to be highlighting the cultural and contextual charms of the property in fresh, modern and inviting manner.”
HILO HAWAIIAN HOTEL
71 Banyan Drive Hilo, HI
PHOTOGRAPHS: ROSEWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS (TOP) AND DEZIGNS INTERIOR PLANNING LLC (BOTTOM
Considered now, when so much of the country’s innovation and enterprise is the sole property of big cities on both coasts, Cranbrook—a creative epicenter in America’s heartland—is not the oxymoron it might seem. It’s further proof of the Midwest as a seat of progressive design, not only in Michigan, but also Wisconsin, where one finds at SC Johnson, iconic buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Before that, Wright’s Prairie School style transformed the suburbs of Chicago, much like his mentor Louis Sullivan changed the city’s skyline with steel high-rises. One could go on, to Minneapolis, and the Guthrie Theatre, to St. Louis, and the Gateway Arch.
A great deal of those responsible for this stunning physical environment come from Cranbrook Academy of Art—just one part of the larger 319-acre Cranbrook Education Community for graduate students studying an array of creative disciplines from architectural to industrial design.
Founded in the early 20th century by George and Ellen Booth, Cranbrook was envisioned as a kind of artist colony modeled after the American Academy of Art in Rome, meant to attract pioneering talents in their fields, like Gere Kavanaugh, who went from Cranbrook to the all-female design team at General Motors, to her own firm, to the Julia Morgan Icon Award from the Los Angeles Design Festival.
Of all the big names associated with Cranbrook—Florence Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames, among them—none looms larger than Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose University of Michigan architecture students included the Booths’ son Henry). Inspired by the traditions and moral implications of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Booths appointed Saarinen as Cranbrook’s chief architect. He also helped developed the institution’s loose, student-designed program; with no conventional grading system or classes, Cranbrook brought the Bauhaus to Bloomfield Hills.
Unlike the International Style that governed the Bauhaus, however, Cranbrook was never so ideological, which one sees in its blend of modern and traditional buildings. Structures from its earliest years showcase Gothic Revival style, while others, like the Kingswood School for Girls, built in 1929, expresses the era’s Art Deco influence. Many agree that the best of Saarinen’s buildings is his last—the Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum and Library. With a central arcade joining its two wings, the building resonates a kind of abstracted classicism.
Cranbrook’s latest acquisition—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Smith House, one of the architect’s Usonian projects—is another jewel in a crown that is practically blinding at this point. Completed in 1950, this coup for Cranbrook is a pristine example of 20th-century residential architecture that, despite Wright’s Usonian promise of building modest homes for those of modest means, stunned its public schoolteacher owners with a final price tag of $20,000 that blew Wright’s initial proposal of $8,000 out of the water.
Mr. Smith actually served as contractor on the project to manage costs. But considering the home’s place today—a gem exquisitely fixed to one of the most important architectural treasures in the nation—we’d say that’s pretty priceless. cranbrookart.ed
PHOTOGRAPHS (PREVIOUS PAGE): 2D AND 3D DESIGN STUDIOS BY PD REARICK; (FROM TOP) CRANBROOK SCHOOLS CAMPUS BY PD REARICK. COURTESY OF CRANBROOK ACADEMY OF ART AND ART MUSEUM.