This historic Michigan estate, located on Lake St. Clair, was home to the Alger family until 1949 when it was dedicated to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Association to serve the veterans of World War II. The Italian Renaissance home was designed by architect Charles A. Platt and features lush formal gardens by prominent landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman. While continuing on as a patriotic leader, the War Memorial also serves as a community and event center for the metro Detroit area. Determining the need to provide improvements to the facility, the War Memorial partnered with ROSSETTI to design an addition which will allow the association to carry on its mission into the future.
Taking key architectural features from the formality of the original home, the new Fred M. Alger Center addition is a contemporary space influenced by the historical context. Following three key principles‒memory, legacy and hospitality‒the new center commemorates those who served while honoring the Italian Renaissance architecture to create a space curated for arts, entertainment and culture. As a juxtaposition to the Alger House, the addition utilizes plan formality, elevational pattern and simplistic materiality to apply the historic design principles but with modern aesthetics. The addition’s strong axial design and room sequencing successfully connects the interior and exterior, emphasized by the use of expansive glass facades reinforced by the repetition of masonry colonnades.
As with the exterior, the interior emphasizes the architecture versus decorative elements to provide a transformable venue supporting vast possibilities of events. The interior materials compliment the architecture and views of the landscape with simple wall textures and monotone colors. Warm wood tones connect the new spaces to the original Alger House while the furniture and fixtures provide additional color and texture. Most notable is the ballroom ceiling, which evokes the coffering affect from the Alger House using patterning from the Ellen Shipman gardens. The successful simplification of the Italian Renaissance architecture and interior design establishes an enhanced War Memorial that will be able to continue its mission of memory, legacy and hospitality.