Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America

Michigan has been a center of modern design since the turn of the twentieth century. This symposium continues the exploration of Michigan’s contributions to Modernism that began at the Cranbrook Educational Community in 2013. The convergence of influences in Michigan—industrial design and the automotive industry; the Cranbrook Academy of Art under Eliel Saarinen; the work of designers like Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Finn Juhl for Michigan’s furniture companies; and architects Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki —defined modernism in the postwar world and shaped the American dream.

AIA Continuing Education credits are available for some of the tours.


Designer Todd Oldham is editor of the acclaimed monograph Alexander Girard. Oldham will talk about Girard, whose bold textiles for Herman Miller were often paired with furniture designs by his contemporaries Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson.

Sculptor Jim Miller Melberg designed sculptural play forms for parks and playgrounds during the 1950s and 60s. Meant to encourage creativity, the structures included free forms as well as stylized animals. Miller Melberg’s recognizable play forms are found all over the world from Saudia Arabia to Scotland to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale. The interview will be conducted by Debbie Millman, President of Design Division, Sterling Brands and host of Design Matters.


Participants can choose from among seven tours including a rare opportunity to visit Herman Miller’s manufacturing facilities where the wood components for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman are made and where the Eames Aluminum Group and other designs by George Nelson and Isamu Noguchi are assembled and the Herman Miller headquarters and design facilities in Zeeland. Other tours will include the St. Francis de Sales Church designed by Marcel Breuer, the Meyer May House by Frank Lloyd Wright and tours of modern residences in East Grand Rapids.


Event Details:

  • When: 

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

  • Where: 

    State Historic Preservation Office and Kendall College of Art and Design
    17 Pearl Street NW
    Woodbridge Ferris Building
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • More information: 

    Event website.

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