New ‘Field Guide’ highlights Detroit architectural sculptor Parducci


The work of architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci is so widespread in Detroit that you probably know it, even if you’ve never heard of the man before.

Remember: the strict Mayan gods at the entrance to the Guardian Building. The bears on the Horace M. Rackham Memorial Fountain at the Detroit Zoo. The worn medallion of a winged Mercury sank flush into the marble floor of the lobby of the Fisher Building.

A new book by architectural historian and photographer Dale A. Carlson with Einar E. Kvaran, “Corrado Parducci: A Guide to Detroit’s Architectural Sculptors,” offers an encyclopedic listing of the work of the Tuscan-born master, whose reputation has risen sharply in recent years with the rise of craze for everything Detroit.

Indeed, the Parducci Society was founded in 2012. Four years later, Jennifer Baross and Jack P. Johnson released their documentary, Parducci: The Man Who Made Detroit Beautiful.

But back to Carlson. Just scroll through his Index of Buildings and Sites and see if you are not surprised at how many projects Parducci has worked on that you recognize.

His hand is everywhere, encompassing an oversized percentage of the lavish detail of many of our greatest buildings – including the Penobscot Building, Herman Kiefer Hospital, and the University of Michigan Horace M. Rackham Graduate School Building.

Carlson credits Kathryn Bishop Eckert’s “Buildings of Michigan” with planting the seeds for his book. “I bought Buildings of Michigan for my mother on her birthday years ago,” he explained, “and borrowed it immediately and never returned it.”

As he flipped through Eckert’s book, Carlson said, “I realized that the buildings I liked most were Parducci sculptures. And I kept hearing references to his over 600 commissions,” he added, “but no one ever had a list created from more than 50 of them you could try to find. ”

This is a deficiency that the author would like to overcome with his “Field Guide” with 361 illustrated quotations, often accompanied by short informative captions. In general, every building – no matter how much ornament there is – only receives one entry and one picture.

Those who pay close attention to Detroit architecture are likely already familiar with Carlson’s name, not least from his highly informative architecture and graffiti website, with the authoritative link “Albert Kahn: 400 Buildings in Metro Detroit “.

When asked what his favorite example of Parducci sculpture is, Carlson said, “That’s a big, big question. But I think I’ll be going with Kirk in the Hills because that shows a few different styles.”

Corrado Parducci's takeover of the architect Wirt Rowland in Kirk at Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills, a building that Rowland was instrumental in designing.

The chief among them is an almost comically compressed sculpture by Detroit architect Wirt Rowland, who played a key role in the design of the church.

Parducci came to Detroit while working for the New York sculptor and designer Anthony DiLorenzo, but ultimately bought his boss’s orders in Motor City and went independent – for architects such as Albert Kahn, Donaldson & Meier and Smith Hinchman & Grylls, among others .

“Before 1925,” said Carlson, “much of the Kahn work went to DiLorenzo with the requirement that Parducci do the sculpture.”

In some cases, like in Kahn’s 1929 fisherman’s building, several craftsmen were working at the same time – Parducci, DiLorenzo and Ulysses Ricci.

Corrado Parducci: A Guide to Detroit’s Architectural Sculptors is currently only available on Amazon and is priced at $ 17.95. But Carlson makes short promises that it will likely appear on the Detroit Artists Market and Oak Parks Book Beat.

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Dusty Kennedy