Guardian Building

500 Griswold St #1600 Detroit

6 Iconic Detroit Buildings/Guardian Building
A Dose of Detroit
Written By A Dose of Detroit

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).

With 1.8 million orange bricks, it is impossible to miss the Guardian Building when downtown. Detroiters weren't so sure about this extravagant color when the Guardian was built. But architect Wirt C. Rowland wasn't just any architect. He had worked in the top architectural firms of Detroit with Albert Kahn, to name a famous one. Downtown Detroit had 16 skyscrapers built before 1930; Wirt Rowland designed 5 of these.

The exterior of the Guardian Building has a granite base with carvings of Corrado Parducci, the American-Italian architectural sculptor whose work you can find on many buildings in Detroit (Fisher Building, Detroit Masonic Temple, The Penobscot and Buhl Building...)

The Guardian Building, built for the Union Trust Bank, is also called Detroit's cathedral of finance. Step into the lobby, and you'll understand. Long and with high ceilings, it is not difficult to see the cathedral references. The ceiling is made of a thick layer of horsehair and then painted. The horsehair absorbs the sound, and as a result, the main lobby is a remarkably quiet space. Clients didn't have to worry about eavesdroppers when discussing their financial situation with a banker.

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Today, the lobby still houses a bank but also a coffee bar and a Pure Detroit shop. Have a seat in the lobby and admire the wild eccentricity and the colors of the decoration. Rowland wanted to give art deco an American stamp. He didn't want to copy European-inspired decorative elements and used Aztec and Native American ones instead.

If you leave the building, take the Griswold Street exit. On the other side of the street are two other Rowland masterpieces: the Buhl Building and the Penobscot.

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