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Wednesday, February 19,2014

Eye candy of the week

by Daniel Bollman, AIA
Property: 935 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing

Owner: Financial Service Center Inc.

Assessed value: $0

Architecture from the middle decades of the 20th century is enjoying a new-found appreciation. When buildings pass 50 years of age, their status grows, as they become cultural and historic resources. Although “mid-century modern” buildings span several decades and a series of styles, many exhibit common characteristics. The Merten Building clearly displays Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence long after his famous Prairie style had passed from vogue.

While this building’s flat roof belies its Midwestern location — and the corresponding wet and snowy weather — it is a character-defining feature of the Wrightian style. The wide overhangs, which are more climatically appropriate and measure as much as 6 feet deep, reinforce the horizontality also typical of the style.

In fact, the original design included multiple windows that divided the current large glass panes into smaller units, further emphasizing that horizontality. Note the exterior staircase, seamlessly blended into the stone planter on the front elevation.

The building was designed for the Merten Insurance Agency in 1954 by the Lansing-based firm of Lee Black and Kenneth Black Architects. While most of the firm’s best-known work is in the Lansing area, the father and son team also completed significant commissions in Ann Arbor and in Wayne County.

“Eye Candy of the Week” is our look at some of the nicer properties in Lansing. It rotates with Eyesore of the Week.

If you have a suggestion, please e-mail eye@lansingcitypulse. com or call Andy Balaskovitz at 999-5064.

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