Joseph T.A. Lee

Joseph T.A. Lee, (1918-2009), Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and co-founder, chief architect and planner of the Ann Arbor Kerrytown market, died August 15 at his home in Ann Arbor. He was 91. He was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada in 1918 of immigrant Chinese parents. His interest in architecture began as a boy when he built pens for pigeons and rabbits, progressing to remodeling his family’s house when he was in high school. Instead of remaining in Nanaimo with his family’s grocery business, he chose to continue his education by attending the University of British Columbia, studying civil engineering. From there he transferred to the University of Michigan (B.S. Civil and M.S. Structural). After completing studies at Columbia University (B.S. Electrical) and working in the private sector he eventually returned to his original interest in architecture, attending evening classes in the School of Architecture at Columbia University. In New York he worked in the architectural firms of Eggers and Higgins, William Muschenheim, Sanders -Malsin-Reiman, and also served as Clerk of the Works at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia planned community in Pleasantville, New York. In 1952 he was invited to teach at the University of Michigan. For the next three decades he taught at the University of Michigan. He also practiced architecture in Ann Arbor, with George Brigham, Don McMullen, and in private practice. He designed residential, commercial, industrial and institutional projects. In 1969, he formed a private initiative with attorney Arthur Carpenter and ten other Ann Arborites, to renew a part of downtown Ann Arbor.

The corporation, Arbor-A, was committed to rejuvenating the area around the Farmers’ Market, by renovating run-down buildings and renting them to small businesses. He was the Vice-President of Arbor-A and the chief architect and planner for these projects. The first building remodeled was the triangular building (Roach Printing) on the corner of Detroit Street and Fifth Avenue which would house the Pyramid gallery, the law offices of Douvan, Harrington, and Carpenter, and the newly-founded cookware company, Kitchen-port. Against the prevailing trend to relocate businesses to large shopping centers outside of cities, Arbor-A bought the vacant warehouse buildings of the Washtenaw Farm Bureau next to the Farmers’ Market to develop an in-town market. This collection of warehouses was transformed into what is now a well-known Ann Arbor landmark, the “Kerrytown Markets and Shops.” (from ann arbor.com)

Buildings