philip jarmain documents detroit's architectural past philip jarmain documents detroit's architectural past
sep 10, 2013

philip jarmain documents detroit's architectural past

lee plaza hotel, architect charles noble, built 1929
all images courtesy of philip jarmain




philip jarmain
meridian gallery, san francisco
now through october 20, 2013



canadian photographer philip jarmain presents ‘american beauty’, a series of images that document the rapid destruction of detroitʼs early twentieth-century architecture. the haunting captures depict abandoned, forgotten spaces of a bygone era, cataloging the ingenuity and innovation of the american city that has since spiraled downward.  the interiors and exteriors of monumental public buildings are tired and worn, some deteriorated beyond recognition. opulent architectural structures like theaters and hotels, which once beautified detroit streets, are currently being destroyed at an exponential rate. the collection of photographs emphasize the form and detail of the buildings themselves, archiving a forgotten era and the lost art of significant architects. ‘these are the last large format architectural photographs for many of these structures.’, says jarmain.



woodward presbyterian, architect: sidney rose badgley, built 1908



eastown theatre, architect: V.J. waiver, built 1930



mackenzie high school, architect: wirt c. roland, smith group, built 1927, demolished 2012



highland park police station, architect van leyen, schilling & keough, built in 1917, demolished in 2011



fisher body plant no. 21, architect: albert kahn, built 1919



belle isle aquarium, architect: albert kahn, built 1904




  • These photos aren’t entirely accurate. It should be noted that the Book-Cadillac Hotel underwent a $150,000,000 restoration and reopened as the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in 2009. It’s no longer “decayed” as the photographer implies.

    Here is the website:

    Also, the Whitney building is the David Whitney Building (not to be confused with the Whitney historic mansion/restaurant 2 miles north). The David Whitney building is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation into an Aloft Hotel (parent company is Starwood Hotels).

    Downtown Detroit is slowly experiencing a renaissance and that should be shown along with the blight / ruin porn that many seem to enjoy.

    James Dawson says:
  • These are great. My generation grew up in the 80’s and 90’s with these rust belt beauties. As cities continue to clean up and move forward, these old structures are being leveled. Not that they shouldn’t, but it is great that they are photographed here before they are gone.

    Dominic says:
  • I love these pictures so much. Would love to see Detroit now.

    Daniel says:
  • what a wonderful sense of style & design! the beauty shows through the decay…..

    j. michael says:

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