Gunnar Birkerts (Latvian: Gunārs Birkerts, born January 17, 1925 in Riga, Latvia) is a Latvian-American architect who, for most of his career, was based in the metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan. Some of his designs include the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, The Corning Fire Station, in Corning, New York, Marquette Plaza in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. His latest project is the National Library of Latvia in 2012 in Riga, Latvia, the National Library called the Castle of Light whose architectural form references and draw inspiration from the capital's church tower, including St. Peter's Church spire with a gold gilded rooster.
Gunnar Birkerts was raised in Latvia but fled ahead of the advancing Russian army toward the end of the Second World War. He graduated from the Technische Hochschule, Stuttgart, Germany, in 1949. Birkerts came to the United States and worked initially for Perkins and Will, then for Eero Saarinen, and finally for Minoru Yamasaki before opening his own office in the Detroit suburbs.
Birkerts initially practiced in the partnership Birkerts and Staub; after that partnership broke up the firm became Gunnar Birkerts and Associates. The firm received Honor Awards for its projects from the (national) American Institute of Architects in 1962, 1970, 1973, as well as numerous awards from the Michigan Society of Architects and the local chapter.
Birkerts joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1959 and taught until 1990. The ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) honored Birkerts with the ACSA Distinguished Professor Award in 1989-90.
Gunnar Birkerts was selected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1970, and a Fellow of the Latvian Architect Association in 1971. He is the recipient of numerous individual awards including a 1971 fellowship from the Graham Foundation, the Gold Medal of the Michigan Society of Architects in 1980, the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1981, and the 1993 Michigan Artist of the Year award. He received an honorary doctorate from Riga Technical University in 1990, the Order of the Three Stars from the Republic of Latvia in 1995 and the Great Medal of the Latvian Academy of Sciences in 2000.
Birkerts now maintains an architectural office in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
His son is noted literary critic Sven Birkerts.
Birkerts is an honorary professor at Illinois University and the American Academy in Rome. He is a member of the Latvian Union of Architects, honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of the Riga Technical University.
Aside from the national library in Riga, Birkerts has built a number of notable buildings in the United States including the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, Corning Glass Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the University of Iowa College of Justice, and the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, etc.
G. Birkerts received several awards for his architectural work, notably the Arnold V. Brunner Memorial Prize, Michigan Arts Award, awards by the Michigan Union of Architects, the American Union of Architects in Detroit and student organization Tau Sigma Delta.
- Birkerts, Gunnar, Gunnar Birkerts -- Metaphoric Modernist, Axel Menges, Stuttgart, Germany 2009; ISBN 978-3-936681-26-0
- Birkerts, Gunnar, Process and Expression in Architectural Form, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK 1994; ISBN 0-8061-2642-6
- Birkerts, Gunnar, Subterranean Urban Systems, Industrial Development Division-Institute of Science and Technology, University of Michigan 1974
- Kaiser, Kay, The Architecture of Gunnar Birkerts, American Institute of Architects Press, Washington DC 1989; ISBN 1-55835-051-9
- Martin, William, Gunnar Birkerts and Associates (Yukio Futagawa, editor and photographer), A.D.A. Edita (GA Architect), Tokyo 1982
- Gunnar Birkerts & Associates, IBM Information Systems Center, Sterling Forest, N.Y., 1972; Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1973 (Yukio Futagawa, editor and photographer), A.D.A. EDITA (GA Architecture), Tokyo 1974
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gunnar Birkerts.|
- Gunnar Birkerts Architects, Inc.
- "Gunnar Birkerts papers 1930-2002", at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
- Biography (Latvian)