Architect Gunnar Birkerts Dies at 92

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Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts died on August 15 at 92. The Detroit-based architect and teacher worked with Eero Saarinen and in the offices of Perkins+Will before launching his own practice in 1963.

Following his graduation from the Stuttgart Technical College in 1949, Birkerts arrived in the U.S. to begin work for Perkins+Will before joining Eero Saarinen’s practice in Birmingham, Michigan. Birkerts went on to become a principal with Minoru Yamasaki and Associates in 1959, and launched his nearly 30-year teaching career at the University of Michigan. Gunnar Birkerts and Associates was established in 1963 in Birmingham.

National Library of Latvia in Riga.

Evoking a combination of traditional Scandinavian and late modernist design, his work was characterized by an exploration of angular forms and layered, folded planes. Major projects such as the Calvary Baptist Church of Detroit and the Latvian National Library reflect his style, while designs including the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York and the University of Michigan Law Research Facility demonstrate his study of glass and metal as surface technologies. Arguably his most prominent project is Marquette Plaza—formerly the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis—in Minnesota.

Marquette Plaza in 1973. Image courtesy Historic Buildings Survey of Minnesota.

Widely lauded throughout his career, Birkerts was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1970, and received a Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1975.

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