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exterior of Harvest Mission Community Church

Gunnar Birkerts' Brutalist Church

I Spy: May 2021

by Sally Bjork

From the June, 2021 issue

"Man, that I Spy was brutal," quips Bryan Mangnuson. "It's a Brutalist building," explains architectural historian Susan Wineberg, a style "many people can't wrap their arms around." Built as "the University Reformed Church," writes Dave Bicknell, it's "now the Harvest Mission Community Church."

"It won an award for its unusual design--a concrete slab building, with windowless interior walls [and] indirect natural light," shares Louisa Griffes. Located on E. Huron at Fletcher, it was "designed by Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts," writes Barb Tester. Birkerts "also designed the Law Library [underground addition] and Domino's Farms," adds Gabe DellaVecchia.

It "was named Holy Toaster because of its slab-sided design," says Terri Klein Gordinier. For Kevin Berasley, it "was one of the first landmarks I learned after moving" here. But it didn't work as a landmark for Mary S. Roth, who lived nearby. "Somehow that building is so huge and ugly that it becomes invisible," she writes. Julie Ellis offers another theory: that it is "overlooked due to the distraction of all the inflatables at the Bed & Breakfast next door."

Forty-four entrants spotted the 'holy toaster' on Huron. Our random drawing winner, Laurie Bluemlein, will enjoy her $25 gift certificate at Zingerman's. To enter this month's contest, use the image and clue on the Back Page of the June issue and send your answer to the address at the bottom of the page.     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2021.]


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