Readers, if you enjoy eye candy as much as I do, brace yourselves because the Guardian Building at 500 Griswold St. in downtown Detroit is positively overflowing with Art Deco ornamentation! Designed by Wirt C. Rowland, it opened in 1930 and is decorated with tile from both Pewabic Pottery in Detroit and Cincinnati’s own Rookwood Pottery.
The adventure begins outside with the ornamented exterior combining the colors and textures of granite, brick and terra cotta. According to the architect, “We no longer live in a leisurely age…the impression must be immediate, strong and complete. Color has this vital power.”
Artist Ezra Winter created this mural. The inscription fits well given the building’s old nickname as “the cathedral of finance.”
An explosion of Rookwood tile on the vaulted ceiling in the lobby:
Art Deco opulence meets Aztec inspiration:
Is it me, or does the typography look a bit like Deco Hebrew?
Even outside on the sidewalk, the details continue:
I spent 2 years in the Detroit area and have visited numerous times since. It’s insane that I only learned about this building last fall, right before our most recent Detroit trip. It definitely belongs on the list of must-see sights in the Motor City. Come for the architecture, and stay for the coffee and Detroit souvenirs. And then, look even more closely to find that every part of this building has been thoughtfully designed and detailed. It’s truly astounding and proves the cliché that “they don’t make them like they used to.” Indeed.