As they strive to turn the building into office and retail space, the Federal Reserve Building presents a tricky situation for Bedrock and lead architecture firm/future tenant ROSSETTI. The Fed is really two radically different buildings—the classic, original bank and the modern, Yamasaki-designed annex—smushed together into one complex. Not only are Bedrock and ROSSETTI trying to repurpose some juxtaposing (but equally protected) architecture, they're simultaneously trying to gently cleanse the Fed of security features clumsily added after 9-11. The steel, bulletproof airlock? That can probably go, as can the dozens of ugly cement barriers lining the curb. All of it must be done under the watchful eye of the Detroit Historic District Commission (HDC), which approved the companies' plans to alter the Fed's overgrown plaza on Wednesday. Let's see what they have in store.
If you're not familiar, Minoru Yamasaki is celebrated architect whose work can be found throughout the Detroit area (he also designed the World Trade Center). He designed the Fed's annex, including its front plaza. Largely covered in planters meant to hold lush gardens, the plaza was intended to "Provide a green space of tranquility and serenity in this otherwise very busy part of the city." Those are the words of Henry Guthard, a former Yamasaki colleague who Bedrock consulted for advice on how to best deal with Yamasaki's design (Yamasaki died in 1986).
Bedrock wants to completely remove a portion of the planters to open up the plaza space to outdoor seating (perhaps enough to hint at a restaurant) while giving passerby greater access to the building's entrances. While the HDC was okay with removing some garden space, they and Guthard both took issue with a massive skylight ROSSETTI planned on installing within one of the planters. That skylight would shine down into the building's basement—ROSSETTI's future office space—which is otherwise devoid of natural light. They promised to make the skylight level with the dirt and concealed by surrounding plants. We (sloppily) detailed the modifications in the pics.
Interestingly, the skylight was eventually approved despite Guthard disagreeing that it's what Yamasaki, his former friend and colleague, would've wanted.
"It could be made flush so you wouldn't see see it," he said slowly. "But you wouldn't see the flowers or the plants, as they would not be there."