Who Designed West Michigan

October 6, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Today a commercial real estate broker in the Grand Rapids office of Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce slowly easing toward retirement, Marvin DeWinter holds the distinction as principal designer of much of the city's modern riverfront.

In his 39 years as a practicing architect, DeWinter designed such key structures as the OldTownRiverfrontBuilding, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

"I have always strived to make my designs with a certain degree of longevity, a certain timelessness to them," said DeWinter. "When we built the hotel, the tallest building in town was the McKayTower, and this was significantly larger than that. Just by the fact that it was going to be the tallest building in town made it a landmark building."

For 25 years, the $54 million expansion and renovation of the historic Pantlind Hotel has been the heart of a community and perhaps its most recognizable image. It has even outlasted the GrandCenter convention hall the hotel was built to accommodate.

In that same year, the then-unknown DeWinter traveled to the Johnson, Truman and Eisenhower presidential museums to gather ideas for the GeraldR.FordMuseum. He later visited the Grand Rapids-born Commander in Chief in Colorado

DeWinter's works aren't the only stunning pieces in town, however. The design community has been very busy over the past century or so. Here are some of the more recognizable structures in Grand Rapids, the designers, and a little bit of information about each project.

Icons

AmwayGrandPlaza,

187 Monroe Ave. NW
, 1981

Marvin DeWinter: The distinctive slope of the tower pinnacle came about as an aesthetically pleasing way to contain elevator mechanisms.

Gerald R. Ford Library & Presidential Museum,

303 Pearl St. NW
, 1981

Marvin DeWinter: The museum is commonly regarded as the most efficiently designed within the presidential library system.

McKayTower,

146 Monroe Center St. NW
, 1916

Williamson, Crowe & Proctor:The 18-story granddaddy of Grand Rapids skyscrapers was the original home of Grand Rapids National City Bank. The Greek Revival tower was built with the idea of establishing a "temple of finance."

Meyer May House,

450 Madison Ave. SE
, 1908

Frank Lloyd Wright:An example of his now-famous Prairie style of architecture, the home was restored to its original concept by Steelcase Inc. and opened for visitor tours in 1987.

WoodlandShopping Center

3195 28th St. SE
, 1969

URS Corp., Grand Rapids: For decades, Woodland was the largest mall in the region and the epicenter of West Michigan retail.

PlazaTowers,

201 W. Fulton St.
, 1991

URS Corp., Grand RapidsThe original vision for the 32-story EastbankWaterfrontTowers hotel-condominium-apartment complex was marred by a decade of faulty construction and litigation. Now, however, it's one of the city's more prominent addresses.

Industry & Innovation

Steelcase Corporate DesignCenter (The Pyramid)6100 East Paris Ave. SE, GainesTownship, 1987

Don Koster, WBDC Group, Grand Rapids: More than just a building, the CDC was designed to encourage communication and creativity. Six stories high, it consists of 333,000 square feet of office space and 242,000 square feet of laboratories and building support areas.

Herman Miller Greenhouse,

10201 Adams St., Holland
, 1995

William McDonough + Partners, Virginia: This facility changed the way people thought about the workplace, inspiring Steelcase and Ford Motor Co. to build green factories of their own. "One industry got the attention of other industries," said green building consultant Keith Winn. "That building was important; it led to rapid acceptance of these principles. You can talk about the numbers and the efficiency. But when you actually walk through the building and experience it, you get it right away."

HelmusBuilding, 959 Wealthy St. SE, 2002

Guy Bazzani, Grand RapidsBazzani converted this long-vacant, 90-year-old building into his home and his firm's corporate headquarters. It was the first structure in Grand Rapids to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy Efficient Design criteria.

New Downtown

Bridgewater Place
,
333 Bridge St. NW
, 1993

Brian Winkelmann, Grand Rapids: Originally designed as twin 17-story office towers, owner Robert Grooters Development is at long last preparing to raise the second tower.

Van Andel Museum Center,

272 Pearl St. NW
, 1994

Lawrence Man, E. Verner Johnson & Associates, Boston The highlight of the principal exhibition center of the Grand RapidsPublicMuseum is the two cylindrical pavilions housing the restored Spillman Engineering Co. carousel and the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium. Both pavilions imitate classical temples.

Van Andel Arena,

130 W. Fulton St.
, 1996

Paul Reehil, Rossetti Associates, Birmingham: Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, the 280,000-square-foot, 12,000-seat arena jumpstarted development interest in downtown Grand Rapids

GrandValleyStateUniversity Pew Campus,

01 W. Fulton St.
, 1999

Craig Nicely, Design Plus, Grand Rapids: This 256,000-square-foot facility became the center of the school's downtown operations. It was designed to imitate the Allendale campus, down to the massive clock tower that became a landmark in its own right.

BrassWorksBuilding,

648 Monroe Ave. NW
, 1999

Tom Nemitz, Cornerstone Architects Inc.: The $10 million renovation of this 13-year-vacant foundry into 200,000 square feet of loft-style office space and a microbrewery inspired a series of industrial re-use developments in the urban core.

Second Wave

Grand Rapids Public Library, RyersonBuilding,

111 Library St. NE
, 2003

Malcolm Holzman, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, New York: The $17.5 million renovation of the library's main branch produced one of Grand Rapids' most stunning buildings, to the surprise of skeptics. Marrying the 1904 beaux-arts style Ryerson Building with a 1967 addition was a daunting task — the architectural equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys. A four-story atrium became the unifying element, "a light at the end of the tunnel."

DeVos Place
,
303 Monroe Ave. NW
, 2003

Progressive AE, Grand Rapids: The signature building of a million-square-foot complex is marked by an undulating, metallic roofline breaking and cascading over a dam-like wall. This gleamingaddition to the city's urban core is a step above common, big-box convention centers.

Purple East,

250 Ionia Ave. SW
, 2003

Ted Lott, Lott3 Architecture: In creating this funky building, the designer was respectful of historical preservation requirements and the surrounding Victorian-era brick buildings.

The Rapid Central Station,

300 Ellsworth Ave. SW
, 2004

Jim Vander Molen, Progressive AE: The $21 million Rapid Central Station adjacent to the U.S. 131 S-curve has "rapidly" become one of the most recognizable structures in the city, with its seashell appearance and colorful fiber-optic lighting. "What we started was something symbolic of public transportation," Vander Molen said. "The idea of swiftness, movement. If you take the bus, you're going to get there faster."

Medical Mile

Van Andel Institute,

333 Bostwick Ave. NE
, 2000

Rafael Vinoly, New York The most significant local building built in recent memory; the VAI drew interest from the world's greatest designers. Of 42 designers, Vinoly was chosen with his vision of a roof of rolling glass, inspired by the Grand River.

GVSUCook-DeVosCenter for Health Sciences,

301 Michigan St. NE
, 2003

Craig Nicely, Design Plus: The $57 million, six-story facility houses all of the school's health professions programs and research. Its almost entirely glass exterior promotes a sense of invitation, accessibility and openness.

Fred & LenaMeijerHeartCenter,

21 Michigan St. NE
, 2004

URS Corp, Grand Rapids: The $100 million Spectrum Health center for total heart care is nearly as complex as the organ itself. Despite significant site challenges, this center emerged as a patient-centered, family-focused facility, characterized by its large, private in-patient rooms, natural interior colors and finishes, and the healing garden — a four-story, skylight-enclosed atrium.

LacksCancerCenter

250 Cherry St. SE
, 2004

Trinity Design, Farmington Hills The $46 million Saint Mary's Health Care facility satisfied historical preservation requirements, donors' wishes toward LEED certification, branding interests and the need for comprehensive cancer treatment in one facility.    

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