Welcome to Architecture Grand Rapids where you will find guided architectural tours, stories about homes and buildings, interesting neighborhoods, classic and modern architectural styles, and a growing list of architects and contractors who created the built environment in Greater Grand Rapids and neighboring cities between 1850-1980.
Beyond the brilliant red Calder stabile (non-moving sculpture), there is a set of modern icons of Grand Rapids architecture, the City-County Administration Buildings are best viewed from Ottawa Street between Lyon and Michigan, even though the real address is 300 Monroe NW.
BUILDING DETAILS: The symmetrical and rectangular International style 10-story City Hall, and 3-story County Administration Building brought modern architecture to the city in 1966-68 with these two steel structures clad in brown Canadian granite and bronzed glass. Both buildings are placed far back from the street and raised on a monumental concrete plaza on Vandenberg Center where festivals happen and marchers gather.
After the Grand Vitesse" was installed, Calder agreed to come back to paint one of his iconic paintings on the roof of the shorter county building. Even Grand Rapids residents are often surprised to know that this painting exists and can be viewed from the upper floors of surrounding buildings or, of course, from the air.
HISTORY: The buildings were completed between 1966-1968 during an especially pivotal historic time in the city. The location of the new buildings was the epicenter of urban renewal. Two beloved late 1800's monumental buildings, the Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County Courthouse, were demolished. The courts had already condemned many older buildings downtown to make way for a new modern downtown, but the city hall especially struck an emotional chord with residents. After a late, unsuccessful campaign to save the historic Romanesque-style city hall, on October 27, 1969, Mary Stiles Kimmel, sporting an orange snowmobile suit, straddled the wrecking ball while clutching a sign that read "Save Our Tower." The Grand Rapids Press photo was reprinted in newspapers around the globe and it became a symbol of the new historic preservation movement that was beginning to call out the urban renewal demolitions that were happening in cities across the nation in the 1960s. Although the building was not saved, today the clock from the clock tower is preserved and on view in the Grand Rapids Public Museum.