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Alexander Girard, Architect

Creating Midcentury Modern Masterpieces

Deborah Lubera Kawsky
Foreword by Ruth Adler Schnee

Architecture, Michigan, Detroit

Painted Turtle

Published: June 2018
ISBN: 9780814343654
Pages: 192 Size: 11x8.5
Illustrations: 144 color images; 77 black-and-white images
Published: June 2018
ISBN: 9780814343661

During the midcentury period, Michigan attracted visionary architects, designers, and theorists, including Alexander Girard. While much has been written about Girard’s vibrantly colored and patterned textiles for Herman Miller, the story of his Detroit period (1937­–53)—encompassing interior and industrial design, exhibition curation, and residential architecture—has not been told. Alexander Girard, Architect: Creating Midcentury Modern Masterpieces by Deborah Lubera Kawsky is the first comprehensive study of Girard’s exceptional architectural projects, specifically those concentrated in the ultra-traditional Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe.

One exciting element of the book is the rediscovery of another Girard masterpiece—the only surviving house designed entirely by Girard, and former residence to Mr. and Mrs. John McLucas. Restored in consultation with iconic midcentury designer Ruth Adler Schnee, the McLucas house represents the culmination of Girard’s Detroit design work at midcentury. Stunning color photographs capture the unique design elements—including the boldly colored glazed brick walls of the atrium—reminiscent of Girard’s role as color consultant for the GM Tech Center. Original Girard drawings for the building plan, interior spaces, and custom-designed furniture document the mind of a modernist master at work and are made available to the public for the first time in this beautiful book.

Alexander Girard, Architect is a beautiful, informative book suited for enthusiasts of Alexander Girard, the midcentury modern aesthetic, and Detroit history, art, and architecture.

Published by: Painted Turtle

Deborah Lubera Kawsky completed her undergraduate studies at Smith College and her PhD in art history at Princeton
University. She is an adjunct associate professor of art history at Madonna University. Her current projects relate to Detroit history, art, and architecture.

Alexander Girard was extraordinarily good at every facet of design, and his elegant views on modernity feel just as fresh and relevant today. Alexander Girard, Architect is a smart study of his purposefully revolutionary designs for living filled with never–before–seen drawings and photographs.

– Todd Oldham, designer

We are delighted with Deborah Lubera Kawsky’s efforts to draw focus and attention to a lesser–known aspect of our grandfather’s career. It was from his architectural training and foundation that Girard approached every project. This book adds an important chapter to the larger biography of his diverse life and career.

– Aleishall Girard Maxon, Girard Studio LLC

Before Alexander Girard joined the ‘dream team’ at Herman Miller as the head of the fabric division and moved to Santa Fe in the early 1950s, he spent more than a decade living and working in Detroit. This previously undocumented and virtually unknown chapter of the designer’s career is the subject of Deborah Lubera Kawsky’s groundbreaking research in Alexander Girard, Architect. Kawsky’s lavishly illustrated book, with both archival and contemporary photographs, convincingly claims that it was in Michigan that Girard conceived and developed the ideas that would define his later career as a designer. The book is a must-read for all scholars and enthusiasts of midcentury modern design.

– Gregory Wittkopp, director of the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Alexander Girard, Architect is an enlightening glimpse into Girard’s lesser-known, early career—before he partnered with the modernist powerhouse Herman Miller. Kawsky’s thorough research and generous use of archival imagery uncover a fresh understanding of Girard’s architectural practice and a fascinating account of his evolution as a designer.

– Shelley Selim, associate curator of design and decorative arts, Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Miller House

Kawsky delves into Girard’s prolific design career in Michigan: his midcentury residential work, his exhibition curation, and his impact on fabric, furniture, and graphic design. Richly illustrated with rarely seen historic photographs, this book places Girard at the center of the extraordinary synergy that revolved around modern design in Michigan and led the artist to collaborate with icons Ray and Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Minoru Yamaski and George Nelson.

– Brian D. Conway, Michigan’s state historic preservation officer

While Alexander Girard’s remarkable body of work finds new and receptive audiences today, many still associate the multifaceted designer only with his beloved desert of the American Southwest or his exotic travels abroad. However, as Kawsky painstakingly demonstrates, Girard’s formative years in Detroit were essential to the development of his unique approach to design. A key player in the crucible of mid-century modernism that was birthed in Michigan, Girard’s time there was, like the rest of his life, an extended series of rich and layered experiments in exploring design in all of its many dimensions.

– Andrew Blauvelt, director of Cranbrook Art Museum

With the publication of this book, a critical piece of the Alexander Girard puzzle has been uncovered. By bringing Girard’s contributions and connections to the fore, Michigan’s rich history of mid-century design just gets richer.

– Sam Grawe, global brand director at Herman Miller

Alexander Girard’s years in Michigan proved to be a turning point. In and around Detroit he became exposed to modernism and started his career as one of the most important textile designers of the twentieth century. In Grosse Pointe, Girard built a house for himself and his family and designed several modern residences for progressive–minded clients in the neighborhood. Deborah Lubera Kawsky’s book sheds light on this little–known but important and fascinating part of the trained architect’s work.

– Dr. Jochen Eisenbrand, chief curator at Vitra Design Museum