Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Detroit, MI

As the revitalization of Detroit continues, Bedrock Real Estate Services continues to complete substantial urban renewal work in the city’s downtown. Among its many accomplishments is the renovation and renewal of the former Federal Reserve Building, abandoned before the economic crisis hit Rock City, into a mixed-use property with space for retail, housing, and commercial tenants.

Originally designed in the 1920s as a fortress, with the intent of keeping money inside and protected, the building wasn’t as inviting and open as it had the potential to be. At the real estate company’s request, the architecture firm ROSSETTI focused on creating an updated design that would bring the building new life while paying homage to its history as a financial institution.

Kelly Deines, principal architect at ROSSETTI, said in order to update the building to meet the client’s needs and stay historically accurate, the architects on the job needed to get a little creative. This sparked the idea to honor Minoru Yamisaki, the Japanese architect of the former bank’s 1960s expansion.

“We thought of it as Yamisaki’s ghost blowing through the lobby, which then created this whole storyline or concept of movement,” Deines said.

To accomplish this, the architects chose to include a large amount of transparency and shine by way of glass, metal, and lighting on the walls.

This movement continues underfoot, with a fluid, waving pattern on the lobby floor. Deines said terrazzo and expert terrazzo installers made the design come to life. Terrazzo was chosen as it was prevalent in the 1960s, the decade of Yamisaki’s addition. Consisting of pea gravel, travertine and clear epoxy, the terrazzo reflects the design of transparency, light, and shine. Textured metal pieces resembling coins reflect the building’s historical function.

The aggregates for the terrazzo were chosen as a way to transform recycled materials and scraps from concrete and metal into a thoughtful, attractive work of art.

“The material that we used is from a cement gravel yard. We used river rock and discarded metal. A lot of it was recycled material, to a certain extent,” Deines said. “It became this “arte povera” (poor art) concept or a poor material done luxuriously.”

Deines sees terrazzo as a tried-and-true material that greatly increases the sustainability of the floor and the building as a whole.

“Why not just start with a material that might outlast your own lifetime? It’s durable – that in itself makes it more sustainable.”

This finished design, combined with the building’s layout, appealed to ROSSETTI so much that the architecture firm actually moved into the fourth floor of the building.

“This particular building blueprint afforded us all to be together,” he said. “It has really improved our design connectivity and a new cultural reset.”

Project details

  • Location: Detroit, MI
  • Project Name: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
  • Owner/Client: Bedrock Real Estate Services
  • Terrazzo Contractor: Artisan Tile
  • Architect: ROSSETTI
  • General Contractor: Sachse Construction
  • Terrazzo Material Supplier: Terrazzo & Marble Supply Co.
    and Wausau Tile
  • Divider Strip Supplier: National Metal Shapes
  • Photography: Jeff White, Octane Photography

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