Providing design services in the community includes all aspects of one’s life on a macro and micro scale. Architects in Michigan need to not only work within the vestiges of the automotive powerhouse that Michigan once was but also contend with ever shift neighborhoods an urban sprawl and decline. The question is present does an architect focus on the historical map or chart a new path. It is the urban renewal opposed to the urban sprawl of the 60s and 70s and even the suburban sprawl of housing developers.
Architects in Michigan are posed with the dilemma of working with developers who take control of projects or resisting those developers that may not have the correct growth in mind. The problem occurs with developers that may have profit as the driving factor and not the community as a whole. Whereas the architect will survey the area of work, analysis the community fabric and look to enhance the area for the betterment of both the person and community. If projects are just put up on a lot with no regard of their surroundings, they will either fail or start to erode the texture of the existing, creating a dysfunctional neighborhood.
The profession of practicing architecture for architects in Michigan can be difficult. The Midwest has been an industrial area where form was following structure and the mind set lingers with manufactering, whereas on both Coasts have more of an influence to lead with design to stand a company out from the crowd. The Midwest built the country, built the middle class but architecture has been seen as a luxury in a climax of production. You will find most creative people on either coast have roots in the rust belt towns. Creative thought seems to be a necessity is the cold Midwest where one may be a dreamer in a land long winter and raining days.
A few notable architects in Michigan that have transcended their community and have provided influences globally are Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero Saarinen and Alden Dow. Their mid-century work took an approach of design to inspire and influence future generations. Their work bent the corners of traditional thought and rethought and reproached the livable space. Extending their design to both adapt to the site but also bring the site inside the interior space. This caused Alden Dow to use natural materials such as copper and woods. This was part of the merging human ingenuity with the natural world, harmonizing the two to create a living symbiotic relationship. The Saarinen’s also used natural elements, harmonizing with nature was important as a foundation of good design but there was a moment with Eero to explore the structural aspect to create an even more true design to his work. His work with reinforced
As we celebrate 100 years of the Bauhaus influence Architects in Michigan can see the evolution of technology and material push their designs further. What was once large heavy iron structural elements are now light composite metals formed in artistic shapes. This provides the architect more tools to be creative and empress more with his or her designs. Barriers that existed in structural elements put limits on design, keeping them from fully exploring the possibilities of space but now those barriers have been brought down providing an entirely new horizon for design.
The burden architects in Michigan carry is not only provide design services for clients but also influence the community as a whole. One would think just doing a job for a client is all one needs to do but the big picture is to create a built environments to create a better community in which to live. Settling on just punching the clock and getting paid may be okay for other job professions but for an architect the responsibility extends beyond those parameters. As a doctor abides by the Hippocratic Oath an architect also has an oath or an unsaid obligation to the community, they or we are servants to their surroundings and responsible to the society to enrich it. Avoid this responsibly is not practicing architecture in its true form, turning a back, a dereliction of duty. This problem may erode the profession and destroy potential for the future on cities and neighborhoods.
Another consideration for architects is working on site with natural features, trees, bushes, rolling hills, rocky outcroppings or other interesting amenities, the design should work with these existing features. Having a site with mature oak trees would be a shame to clear cut those trees and not work around those. Some of those red and white oak trees could be as old as 85 -150 years or older and would be detrimental to remove those for both the pure respect of the age of the tree or trees and of the ecosystem that has grown around that tree or those trees. It would be best to avoid any mature stand of trees and rather pick an existing site of open plains or existing lot with an abandoned buildings. The problem of clear cutting not only is removing the habitat for animals and insects but also erasing a natural growth area that has been adapting and growing in the environments for years. Once the stand of trees is remove and cannot be replaced, it will take a life time to get that back. Historical Michigan was a dense tree covered peninsula of pine and oak trees but when discovered by Europeans they harvested this resource to send lumber to build Europe leaving the lands barrier of mature tree, now only a few older trees remain. If architects and developers practice this same short sighted strategy it will continue a enivroemtn void of mature trees that act as anchor to natural eco system.
In conclusion, architects in Michigan and architects elsewhere need not only to design for those people that use their designed space but most also be sensitive to the built environment around the structure but also what impact it has a natural feature. Designing for the present is not only considering the past but also looking to the future.