Are you looking for something other than the typical trip up north this fall? If so, we ask you to consider exploring the Grand Rapids area. Grand Rapids is filled with a variety of must-see architecture and cultural options that could fill a weekend or just a simple day trip.
This month we explore some of the unique Grand Rapids architecture and historical areas that reinforce MAF’s mission of “advancing awareness of how architecture enriches life.” If you are planning a trip to the area, please consider some of the following tour options to learn more about Michigan Architecture:
Great Architecture of Michigan 2021 Summer Road Trip:
Some of our first Road Trips focused on the Michigan buildings featured in the Michigan Architectural Foundation’s book, ‘Great Architecture of Michigan,’ written by John Gallagher with photos by Balthazar Korab. The Summer 2021 Road Trip explored the central western regions of the state, starting in Ionia and traveling west to Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland. A link to that original Road Trip can be found here:
Seven Icons of Grand Rapids:
Let’s start our tour with these seven classic Grand Rapids historic buildings. Five are within walking distance of downtown and the remaining two are close by. Building styles range from Neoclassic Revival and Art Deco to Wright’s Prairie style and classic Modern. This self-guided tour features the following Grand Rapids landmarks: Civic Center Auditorium Facade, Amway Grand Plaza (Pantlind) Hotel, City-County Administration Buildings, Grand Rapids Trust Building, Flat Iron Building, Meyer May House and D.A. Blodgett Home for Children.
Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM):
For a minimalist experience, look no further than the GRAM. This award-winning design was the first museum in the nation to receive the certification of LEED Gold. Using design strategies such as sensitive planning to maximize sun orientation, a highly efficient climate control system, a light-porous building envelope, optimized air and filtration systems, and rainwater recycling, the architects were able to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint. For additional information, see the Michigan architecture feature on the GRAM in this month’s MAF newsletter.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park:
If you are looking for a unique experience combining art and nature, you will definitely want to visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. This is one of our nation’s premier horticultural display gardens and sculpture parks. The 158-acre main campus opened in 1995 and is a delightful escape, where visitors can enjoy a variety of venues depending on what they choose to explore. For something different, you will not want to miss the Richard & Helen Devos Japanese Garden. These gardens are the very essence of tranquility, simplicity and beauty.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum:
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is the presidential museum and burial place of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States (1974–1977), and his wife Betty Ford. It is located near the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ford’s presidential museum is the only such facility under the auspices of the National Archives and Records Administration to be separate from the presidential library, which is located approximately 130 miles to the east in Ann Arbor. The two-story, triangular-plan building constructed of steel and concrete has a three-hundred-foot-long east wall of glass, mirroring a panorama of the river and the city.
Devos Place Convention Center:
DeVos Place Convention Center, erected in 2004 on the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a multi-purpose convention center. It is named for Richard DeVos, who donated $20 million towards its construction. The convention center contains a large, 162,000 square foot exhibit hall and an additional 40,000 square foot ballroom. The facility is squeezed between the river and Monroe Avenue NW on thirteen acres in the heart of Grand Rapids. The sweeping wave-like roofline, current-like patterns in the terrazzo floor, and the dam-like wall over which the Secchia Gallery’s clear roof breaks and cascades mimic the movement of the river.
Grand Rapids Public Museum:
The Grand Rapids Public Museum, located on the bank of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, is among the oldest history museums in the United States. The museum was founded in 1854 as the “Grand Rapids Lyceum of Natural History”. The museum includes a cafe, a gift shop, and a 1928 Spillman carousel, which is situated in a pavilion over the Grand River.
Heritage Hill Association:
Heritage Hill is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country. It was the first “neighborhood” of Grand Rapids and is adjacent to downtown, the medical institutions and universities, and the hip Uptown district. Heritage Hill offers Michigan’s largest and finest collection of 19th and early 20th-century houses. Nearly every style of American architecture, from Greek Revival to Prairie, is represented in the 1,300 buildings that date from 1844. These were the homes of lumber barons, teachers, judges, and legislators who shaped our city’s future. The self-guided walking tour will take you past thirty-seven of these magnificent historic homes.
Grand Rapids Walking and Running Tours:
If you are looking for an alternative to traditional tours, you may want to check out these options. Grand Rapids Running Tours offer about fifty guided tour options that encompass a variety of topics. Each tour is a unique experience that is researched, scripted, and mapped by Caroline Cook, who is also the tour guide. All tours can be scheduled as a run, walk or step-on bus tour.