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Wirt Rowland, designer
of the world-famous Guardian Building, was one of the twentieth century’s most
influential architects. New York City’s iconic Chrysler Building, for example,
would look much different were it not for Rowland’s direct influence on its
final design. Rowland pioneered design features now recognized as Art Deco
standards: bright colors, geometric ornaments, stepped arches, and aluminum and
stainless steel in place of brass. Despite his significant contributions,
Rowland is only now beginning to receive the recognition he deserves.
Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture begins
with a brief overview of Rowland’s early life and career. Author Michael G. Smith goes on to analyze
Rowland’s achievements in building design and as a leader of Detroit’s
architectural community throughout both World Wars and the Great Depression.
The interdependence of architecture with the city’s fluctuating economic
prosperity and population growth is explored, illuminating the conditions for
good architecture and the arts in general.