The Fisher Building is a landmark skyscraper located in the heart of the New Center area of Detroit. The ornate building is designed in an Art Deco style, constructed of limestone, granite, and several types of marble. The Fisher family financed the building with proceeds from the sale of Fisher Body to General Motors. It was designed to house office and retail space. The Fisher Building rises 30-stories with a roof height of 428 feet. The building has 21 elevators. Designed by Albert Kahn and Associates with Joseph Nathaniel French as chief architect, it has been called Detroit’s largest art object and is widely considered Kahn’s greatest achievement.
The Fisher Building is Detroit’s ode to Art Deco. Art Deco is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s and into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and jewelry, as well as the visual arts such as painting, graphic arts and film. At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity. Art deco’s linear symmetry was a distinct departure from the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor style art nouveau; it embraced influences from many different styles of the early twentieth century, including neoclassical, constructivism, cubism, modernism and futurism and drew inspiration from ancient Egyptian and Aztec forms. Although many design movements have political or philosophical beginnings or intentions, art deco was purely decorative.
In 1929, the Fisher Building was honored by the Architectural League of New York with a silver medal in architecture. The opulent three-story barrel vaulted lobby is constructed with forty different kinds of marble, decorated by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti, and is highly regarded by architects. The sculpture on the exterior of the building was supplied by several sculptors including Maroti, Corrado Parducci, Anthony De Lorenzo and Ulysses Ricci.
The building also is home to the Fisher Theatre, one of Detroit’s oldest live theatre venues. The theatre originally featured a lavish Aztec-themed interior in the Mayan Revival style, and once had Mexican-Indian art, banana trees and live macaws that its patrons could feed. After the Depression, the theatre operated primarily as a movie house until 1961. Originally containing 3,500 seats, the interior was renovated into a 2,089-seat playhouse that allowed for more spacious seating and lobbies for patrons. The decor was changed to a simple mid-century design (which some feel is now far more “dated” in appearance than the grandiose art deco foyer). The New Fisher Theatre opened October 2, 1961 and is owned and operated by the Nederlander Organization. It primarily features travelling productions of Broadway shows.
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