Fate of a "noble" structure by Gunnar Birkerts in question


Jeffrey Dutka


Former Livonia resident & preservation supporter


Threatened, Advocacy, Michigan, 70s Turn 50
Image details


The Alfred Noble Library is located in Livonia, Michigan just outside the City of Detroit. This Late Modern structure was designed by world-renowned architect Gunnar Birkerts. Mr. Birkerts first came to the state after he was invited by Minoru Yamasaki to join his firm in Birmingham, MI. He left Yamasaki in 1959 to establish the partnership of Birkerts and Straub and spent the better part of his life, living, working, and teaching (University of Michigan) in southeastern Michigan. The library got its name from the Livonia Historical Society who lobbied to recognize one of the city’s most famous residents, engineer Alfred Noble (Soo Locks/Panama Canal). The library opened its doors in 1967 and closed those doors permanently in 2019 due to unaddressed/long-term water issues that ultimately resulted in unsafe mold conditions.

Current Threat

In October 2022, local media outlet Hometown Life reported that the Livonia mayor’s office, “plans to request demolition of the building in early 2023. Noble has been closed for about 3 years due to mold and water damage, and the city assessor deemed it ‘functionally obsolete’ last year.”

The previous administration that closed the library promised that the local community would have input into the future of the structure. That stance was altered by the current administration when they stated that “the process of reimagining what could live in that space will begin (only) after the current structure is demolished.” A possible preservation strategy for Alfred Noble was never reported.

What’s being done

Current and former residents have been attempting to organize a grassroots response to the City’s threat of demolition. A change.org petition titled “Save Alfred Noble Library” is making the rounds and volunteers have been dropping flyers door to door and at local businesses to try and raise awareness. Unfortunately, without the city being on-board for the process of coordinating a preservation plan, the fate of this “noble” structure is likely sealed. Local advocates plan to attend an upcoming City Council meeting on January 18th to submit public comment in support of preservation and will continue to monitor for news from the Mayor's office.


What you can do

  • Follow along with advocacy efforts through the “Save Alfred Noble” Facebook page and Instagram page.
  • Show support by signing the Change.org petition.
  • If you have ties to Metro Detroit or Livonia specifically, help spread the word that this historic library is facing demolition and the people of Livonia (and the world) are at risk of losing an important example of Modernism.
  • If you are local to the area and would like to submit public comment at the upcoming City Council meeting on January 18th please contact us at info@docomomo-us.org


More images shared by "Midwest Modern," @JoshLipnik, on Twitter: