Trui Moerkerke is a Belgian journalist who moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan with her family in the Summer of 2016. She decided to make the most of the waiting-for-the work-permit-time. She is fascinated with Detroit and studied to become a tour guide. There is so much to see, so much to tell. As a journalist and former editor, Trui knows a thing or two about storytelling. Trui is still writing for Belgian magazines and newspapers and she founded A Dose of Detroit. She's ready to take you on a guided tour in this amazing city (in Dutch, French and English).
In the first decades of the 20th century, the seven Fisher brothers made a fortune in the starting automotive industry in Detroit. They decided to do something impressive with all that money. They hired Albert Kahn, also known as the architect of Detroit, to design a beautiful and grand skyscraper with offices, shops, a theater, and a parking garage. The Fisher Building opened in 1928 in the New Center area, after only 15 months of construction. When you see the building from a distance and then discover the opulent interior, you'll wonder how it even was possible to build all this in such a short period.
Where to start? With some numbers cited on Historic Detroit, the fantastic website telling the story of the buildings in Detroit: "The recipe called for more than 12,000 tons of steel; 350,000 cubic yards of concrete and marble; 1,800 bronze windows; 641 bronze elevator doors (inside and outside of the cars); 420 tons of bronze finishings; 46,000 square feet of concrete forms, 41,000 barrels of cement, 100,000 yards of sand and gravel and 1,275 miles of electrical and telephone wire and cable. With more than 325,000 square feet of exterior marble, the Fisher is the largest marble-clad commercial building in the world."
When you step inside the three-story barrel-vaulted lobby, you're stepping into 1928. The lavish decoration still impresses visitors today. Countless types of marble, hand-painted ceilings, mosaic tile decorations, it is all overwhelming. Albert Kahn worked with Hungarian artist Geza R. Maroti for the mosaics and frescoes. My advice: have a coffee at Stella, a coffee bar in the lobby, and take the time to admire the ceilings, the lighting, mosaics,... Or go on a tour of the Fisher Building. Pure Detroit, another tenant in the lobby, organizes free tours.
If you want to discover more Albert Kahn buildings, there is a reason he is called the architect of Detroit, you'll have plenty of choices and you can start in the Fisher Building that has underground passageways to Cadillac Place (formerly known as the General Motors Building) and to the Albert Kahn Building (formerly known as New Center). But Kahn is all over the city with industrial and residential work. There is the Highland Park factory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, and Conservancy, The Detroit Athletic Club, The First National Building, The Vinton Building,...