Detroit Architecture

 About Detroit Architecture

Detroit: Lace up your walking shoes or hop aboard the People Mover: it’s time to take a tour of the best architecture in downtown Detroit. Downtown you’ll find a variety of buildings designed by a number of seminal architects like Albert Kahn, Minoru Yamasaki, C. Howard Crane, and more. Overall, Detroit features some of the most beautiful buildings in America, and whether you’re a tourist or a local resident, these special buildings are all worth taking the time to both visit and explore .

The Beauty of Detroit Architectures …

Opened in 1929, the Art Deco masterpiece got contributions from a number of major architects: Smith, Hinchman & Grylls was the lead architect with additional designs by Wirt C. Rowland and Donaldson & Meier. The Guardian is blessed with one of the most incredible lobbies in the world. Pure Detroit leads tours on the weekends, and it’s worth stopping in any day to take in the multicolor Aztec designs.

Address: 500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit: Jeff Dunn

Named in honor of the Penobscot, a Native American tribe from Maine, this art deco masterpiece was built in 1928 in the heart of the Financial District and features a variety of Native American motifs. Another Art Deco gem in the city, the building was the tallest in Michigan until the Renaissance Center. It’s home to offices now, and we’re hoping that red orb shines again soon.

Architect Wirt C. Rowland:

Address: 645 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

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The 38-story Art Deco building, designed by Donaldson & Meier and opened in 1929, features sculptures by Corrado Parducci. It was vacant for a few years due to burst pipes and flooding. Dan Gilbert and Bedrock bought the building and redeveloped it into 107 luxury apartments.

Address: 1150 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit: Bedrock Detroit

The Westin Book Cadillac Building

Designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1924, the Book Cadillac was abandoned in the 1980s and then underwent a $200 million renovation in 2008. It’s now one of the classiest hotels in town, with condos in the upper floors.

Address: 1114 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit:  Michael Weber

The Italian Renaissance masterpiece designed by Louis Kamper saw its 13-story building open in 1917 and its 36-story tower open in 1926. Vacant since 2009, it was bought by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock in 2015 and has since been undergoing renovations.

Address: 1260 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit: Bedrock Detroit

This landmark skyscraper in the New Center area is constructed of limestone, granite and marble and was designed by Albert Kahn Associates. Finished in 1928, it’s considered Detroit’s largest art object and is home to the iconic Fisher Theatre.

Architect Albert Kahn: A well-known industrial architect, Kahn was born in Germany and came to Detroit in 1880 at the age of 11. In addition to the Fisher Building, he designed Cranbrook House and The Dearborn Inn in Dearborn.

Address: 3011 E Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202

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Built in 1915 and designed by Graham, Burnham & Company, the David Whitney Building has one of the most spectacular lobbies in the city. It underwent a $92 million renovation that finished in 2014.

Address: 1 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit: Alamy 

The Fox Theatre, designed by C. Howard Crane and opening in 1928, contains an eclectic and ornate mix of decorations in Egyptian, Far Eastern and Indian styles. The over-5,000-seat theatre built for the Fox Films chain became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The Ilitch family bought the building in 1987 and soon after completed a $12 million restoration, built a new marquee, and in 2006, added the multi-story and now iconic “FOX” tower with LED lights.


Address: 2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

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A first in a series of palatial vaudeville and moving picture houses built in Detroit in the 1920s, this opera house was designed by renowned Detroit architect C. Howard Crane. It is resplendently decorated in the Italian Renaissance style with lavish crystal chandeliers, frescoes, brass fixtures, marble stairways and drinking fountains.

Address: 1526 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226

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Many thought the beautiful Metropolitan Building and its neighboring Wurlitzer Building would face demolition at some point. Now, both of these buildings have been renovated into hotels. A great way to visit would be on the Element Hotel’s rooftop bar.

Address: 33 John R Street, Detroit, MI 48226 

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An ornate work of Beaux Arts architecture, the 44,625-square-foot, 18-court room Wayne County Building was finished in 1902. Though the county left in 2010, the building is still in good shape, unlike others on this list. Parts of the building have been restored over the years, most recently in 2018.

Address: 600 Randolph St, Detroit, MI 48226

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Ally Detroit Center

Ally Detroit Center, formerly One Detroit Center, was designed by renowned architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson, is undoubtedly Detroit’s greatest example of postmodernism. Opened in 1993, the building’s most notable features are its four Neo-gothic spires pointing to the sky. At 43 stories, it’s also one of the tallest buildings in the state.

Address: 500 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Photo credit: Roland Arhelger

This impressive grouping of seven interconnected tall towers is a centerpiece of the Detroit riverfront. Designed by architect John Portman, who also imagined the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, 

Address: GM Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI 48243

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