Robert C. Metcalf, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Bentley Historical Library, bl003593Robert Metcalf (1923 – present): Trained at and on the faculty of U-M, Metcalf worked as a draftsman for George Brigham before starting his own practice. In 1953 he and his wife Bettie built a house for themselves at 1052 Arlington to show potential clients what he could do. Metcalf went on to design 68 houses in Ann Arbor. His houses are known for his careful attention to detail and for siting to maximize the light and view.
Metcalf designed houses and businesses for many of Detroit and Ann Arbor’s most prominent citizens. Among the University of Michigan faculty and administration for whom Metcalf designed homes were physicist H. Richard Crane (1953), College of Architecture professor Catherine B. Heller (1953), chemistry professor Philip J. Elving (1954), physicist David M. Dennison (1954), anthropology professor Elman R. Service (1954), physics professors Lawrence W. Jones (1955) and Kent M. Terwilliger (1955), industrial management professor Franklin G. Moore (1955), internal medicine professor and Chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Stefan S. Fajans (1957), professor of political science Everett S. Brown (1958), professor of surgery Dr. Reed O. Dingman (1959), engineering professor John Holland (1964) and professor of chemistry Lawrence S. Bartell (1988). In addition, Metcalf designed houses for Mr. Millard H. Pryor, Chairman of the Board of the Mollard-Barnes Manufacturing Company (1958), President of the Ford Motor Company Mr. Arjay Miller (1965), and Mr. George Huebner, a former Chrysler Director of Research, and his wife Trudy Huebner, a former University of Michigan Regent (1975).
Over the course of his career, Metcalf worked with other architects including Tivadar Balogh and William Werner. Tivadar Balogh, a fellow UM alumnus (class of 1952) and later instructor in Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, joined Metcalf’s firm in 1954, working as one of his draftsmen until 1960, when he left to work as an architect and designer for the firms of Shreve, Walker, and Associates and W.B. Ford Design Associates, both of Detroit. Metcalf had a longstanding relationship with architect William Werner. Werner, some of whose work appears in this collection, joined Metcalf in professional practice in 1955. He received his bachelor’s and master’s of architecture from Michigan (class of ’52 and ’57, respectively), and taught structure courses in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, beginning as an instructor in 1956 and retiring as a full Professor in 1998.
Among the many honors Metcalf has received for architecture are Honorable Mention in the Morton Arboretum Small House Competition (1954), an Honors Award from the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for his own home (1955), an Award Citation from Progressive Architecture for designing the home of UM Professor David M. Dennison (1955), Honorable Mention with Tivadar Balogh in the Porcelain Enamel Design Competition for a youth center (1956), Third Award by the National Conference on Church Architecture for his work on the Church of the Good Shepherd (1958), the Homes for Better Living Honorable Mention from the American Institute of Architects, House & Home and Life magazines (1958), membership in the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, and the President’s Award for lifetime achievement from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Michigan (1999). Metcalf also served as past president of the Huron Valley Chapter of the AIA.
Metcalf’s work has been featured in numerous architectural journals including Progressive Architecture (January 1955), the Michigan Society of Architects’ Monthly Bulletin (October 1955), Architectural Forum (March 1956), and the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Portico (1991). Metcalf has also received mention in other non-industry publications such as House and Home (1958), Ann Arbor Observer (1977), Ann Arbor Women’s City Club Magazine (1982), Detroit Home (2004), Our House (2007), and Unwind Ann Arbor Business Review (2007). Stories on Metcalf and his work have also appeared repeatedly over the years in The Ann Arbor News , the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit Free Press Roto Magazine , the Michigan Alumnus , the Michigan Daily , Lansing’s State Journal , and The Canton Repository .
Biography from Biography, Bentley Historical Library Finding Aid and Grace Shackman.
- Robert C. Metcalf collection, Bentley Historical Library
- Mary Kurlyandchik, The Dean of Mod, Detroit Home, Winter 2010.
- Greg Saldana, curator, Constructing Modern: The Work of Robert C. Metcalf, Fall 2010, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
- Greg Saldana, curator, Modernism at Risk: Michigan Matters March-April 2011, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.