Skip to Content

20+ Must-See Detroit Buildings 2023

detroit skyline - detroit architecture

Explore Detroit Architecture

The Detroit architecture scene is worth checking out, whether you’re a design buff or simply a curious visitor.

While many know Detroit as “The Motor City,” “The D,” or even, affectionately, “The City,” it was once known as the “Paris of the Midwest.” That’s thanks in part to the many gifted architects like Louis Kamper (designer of the iconic Whitney Mansion), who contributed to the city’s rich design heritage.

The architecture of Detroit is a study of contrasts, featuring buildings by design giants like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van der Rohe, Albert Khan, and Minoru Yamasaki, among others.

With a wide variety of architectural styles, these must-see buildings in the city of Detroit feature intricate details and designs with decades of history molded into the walls.

Not a history or architecture fanatic? These must-see buildings in Detroit are still worth your time, as they provide Instagram-able selfie backgrounds to check off your travel bucket list.

Still not convinced? We put together a list of 20 must-see buildings to help you appreciate Detroit architecture while you are in Detroit.

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

guardian building- detroit architecture

20 Best Buildings in Detroit to See and Explore

The Guardian Building
500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Guardian Building is a Class-A office building, constructed in 1929. Class-A is the highest classification for office buildings and is considered to represent the highest quality buildings on the market in a given area.

This Detroit building is considered one of the boldest examples of art-deco architecture. Originally designed by renowned architect Wirt Rowland as the Union Trust building, it beautifully combines design influences of Native Americans, Aztecs, and the Arts and Crafts movement.

You’ll be amazed at the glass mosaic in the lobby, beautifully painted murals, stained glass, and ornate marble fixtures.

The Guardian Building also offers modern office space ranging in size from 1,00 to 16,000 square feet. So after you finish admiring the handiwork of Smith Hinchman and Grylls, you can find your future office right in downtown Detroit.

While this list is in no particular order, put the Guardian Building at the top of your list for your Detroit architectural tour.

map of detroit buildings

Use Our Interactive Map of the Most Iconic Buildings in Detroit

Masonic temple-detroit architecture

The Masonic Temple
500 Temple St, Detroit, MI 48201

Detroit’s Masonic Temple is the largest masinoc temple in the world. This iconic Detroit building is home to many organizations, including the York Rite Sovereign College of North America.

Designed by architect George Mason in the gothic revival style, this massive 16-story building features two ballrooms, a large cathedral, several chapels, and a 4,000-seat auditorium.

Designed by sculptor Corrado Parducci,the building’s lobby is an adaptation of the interior of a Sicilian castle. Chandeliers, decorative arches, medallions, and other intricate artistic details make this building a must-see during your Detroit visit.

PRO-TIP: Detroit’s Masonic Temple is said to be haunted by Mason, whom some claim they have seen climbing the staircase.

Fox Theatre Detroit
2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

You can’t create a “must-see buildings in Detroit” list without including the Fox Theatre!

Designed by architect Charles Howard Crane, the Fox Theatre is the largest surviving movie palace of the 1920s. Originally built as one of five “Fox Theaters” by film pioneer William Fox, the Fox was a top destination for filmgoers at one time.

After undergoing $12 million in renovations, it was reopened as a performance venue. Standing 10 stories tall, the exterior features the impressive Fox Marquee. Inside are breathtaking designs inspired by Burmese, Chinese, Indian and Persian motifs.

What also makes the theatre special is the ornate interior. After entering through brass doors to a 3,600-square-foot, six-story high lobby, you can take in the Egyptian, Indian and Oriental motifs. Don’t miss the famous elephants head in the center of the proscenium.

Charles Wright Musuem - best detroit buildings
Photo from Visit Detroit

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
315 E Warren Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

Located near the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum celebrates the legacy of African Americans in a state-of-the-art, 125,00 square foot facility. Housing the world’s largest permanent collection of African American culture, this state-of-the-art building is located in Detroit’s Midtown area.

The museum started as a smaller facility in 1965 when Dr. Charles Wright and others founded the International Afro-American Museum on West Grand Boulevard. It didn’t take long before the facility outgrew the building.

With architectural credits going to Harold Varner, this facility currently features a rotunda, known as the Ford Freedom Rotunda. This 65-foot glass dome is larger than the dome at the U.S. capitol building.

Comerica Tower, also known as One Detroit Center
500 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

The tallest office building in Detroit, currently known as the Ally Detroit Center, was designed by John Burgee and Philip Johnson, and built in 1993. Designed in the post-modern style, this 43-floor skyscraper is recognized by the neo-gothic spires at the top of the building.

20 Things to do in Detroit MI

More Amazing Detroit Architechture

One Campus Martius
1000 Woodward Avenue

Located across from the popular Campus Martius Park, One Campus Martius is just four blocks south of Grand Circus Park. This Hamilton Anderson and Rossetti-designed building was initially constructed in 2003 as a computer software office before becoming One Campus Martius.

This must-see building is 16 stories of steel and concrete with granite and limestone. Known for its pentagonal, Postmodern-style shape, it also hosts the world’s largest indoor water sculpture, easily making this a must-see for your Detroit trip. One Campus Martius is located on Detroit’s Kern Block, once home to the Kern Department Store.

One Woodward Avenue
1 Woodward Avenue

Originally the headquarters for the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, this building was built by famed architect Minoru Yamasaki. The Troy-based architect most famously built the World Trade Center in New York as well as many skyscrapers in Detroit.

With precast concrete on the exterior, prominent vertical lines, and an elevated 30-foot ceiling in the public lobby, one cannot miss One Woodward Avenue. You’ll see similar design features on neighboring Yamasaki buildings on this must-see Detroit architecture list.

mcGregor memorial confernce cneter - detroit architecture
Photp from WSU Yamasaki Legacy Project

Yamasaki Buildings on the Wayne State University Campus

Wayne State’s sprawling campus in Detroit’s Midtown is home to four Minoru Yamasaki-designed buildings, each unique and yet easily identifiable as Yamasaki buildings.

These Modernist-style buildings display several features of Yamasaki’s style including repeated geometric patterns, flat roofs, and the use of concrete. They are located across the campus and are still in use today as classrooms. The most notable is the McGregor Memorial Conference Center and Reflecting Pond.

McGregor Memorial Conference Center
495 Gilmour Mall, Detroit, MI 48202

This is another Yamasaki building that deserved its own space. Inspired by the Taj Mahal and other traditional Japanese architecture, the McGregor Memorial Conference Center demonstrates Yamasaki’s transition to mid-50s modernism. Accented with a sunken courtyard oasis, complete with a pond, and a solid building sliced open to form a light well, McGregor Memorial Conference Center features pointed arches, water features, and a bold building silhouette.

More Yamasaki Buildings at WSU

  • College of Education
    5425 Gullen Mall, Detroit, MI 48202
  • Helen L. DeRoy Auditorium
    5203 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
  • Prentis Building
    5203 Cass Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
fisher building - detroit architecture
Fisher Building- photo by Trip Advisor User Elizabeth K.

The Fisher Building
3011 W. Grand Boulevard

Designed by architect Albert Kahn, the Fisher Building is one of the most easily recognizable buildings by native Detroiters – even though they may not know its name. One of the prettiest Art Deco skyscrapers in Detroit, it was built by the Fisher brothers (of autobody fame) in 1928.

This 441-foot tower’s walls are filled with fancy marble, mosaics, and painted ceilings accented with bronze and brass. Known as “Detroit’s largest art object,” an Art Deco-style building like this is a must-see building in Detroit.

Penobscot Building
645 Griswold Street

Covered in limestone with a granite base, this red neon tower is Detroit’s “blazing ball of fire” at sunset. Native American motifs adorn the art deco style ornamentation on the exterior and interior of this building.

Thirty stories high with a series of setbacks, the Penobscot Building’s “H” shape is hard to miss as you continue your architectural tour of Detroit.

One of the tallest buildings in Detroit, the Penobscot was designed by architect Wirt Rowland, and is located in the Detroit Financial District, near Jefferson, Griswold and Shelby streets.

renaissance center- best detroit buildings

Renaissance Center
East Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, MI 48243

Technically speaking, the Renaissance is seven connected skyscrapers in Downtown Detroit. Designed by John Portman, the Renaissance is “a city within a city” with a five-tower rosette and four 39-story office towers surrounding a 73-story hotel.

Sitting right on the Detroit River, the Renaissance Center is a beautiful must-see architectural pit-stop before heading to Comerica Park or Ford Field. You can even take the Detroit People Mover right to the front door!

PRO-TIP: Detroit’s amazing Riverwalk is connected to the Renaissance Center. Don’t miss the chance to walk along Detroit Riverwalk and take in the skylines of both Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada, located directly across the Detroit River.

michigan central station - detroit architecture

Michigan Central Station
2001 15th St, Detroit, MI 48216

Once known as “Detroit’s Ellis Island,” the Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is easily recognizable to visitors in the area: a hulking, empty structure with rows and rows of windows. This circa, thirteen-story building, built in the Beaux-Arts style, was the tallest railroad station in the world when it was built.

Once a magnificently grand building (the main waiting room was modeled after a Roman bathhouse), it featured marbled floors, bronzed chandeliers, wood-paneled lounges, and giant pillars.

The station fell into decay in the 1990’s, however, the building was purchased by the Ford Foundation, and is in the process of restoration.

Westin Book Cadillac
1114 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by architect Louis Kamper in the Neo-Renaissance style, the historic Book Cadillac Hotel is a true gem of downtown Detroit.

Adorned with sculptures of notable Detroiters including General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and Chief Pontiac along the facade, this ornate building is covered in limestone for the first six floors.

Built in 1923, it features 1,200 rooms, a Venetian Ballroom, and an Italian Garden among other luxuries. The hotel was a top destination for visitors to the city before falling into disrepair and closing in 1984. After a $150 million renovation, the Book Cadillac was restored to its original grandeur and reopened in 2006.

30 most haunted places in michigan

The Whitney
4421 Woodward Avenue

The Whitney Mansion is famous for the best upscale dining in Detroit. But outside of its fantastic food, the mansion adorns the same soft rose pink granite exterior from 1890 when it was initially built.

Filled with stone carvings with leaf motifs and Detroit’s wealthiest man, David Whitney Jr.’s initials, the roof is covered in slate tiles laid in a fish scale pattern. The mansion spreads 22,000 square feet and has 52 rooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces, and numerous Tiffany-crafted stained-glass windows.

If you don’t visit any other place on this list, The Whitney is the must-see building in Detroit.

PRO-TIP: This luxurious spot is also said to be haunted. If you’re really curious spend a night in one of the guest rooms at the Whitney Mansion and see for yourself!

David Stott Building
1150 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

Named for David Stott, crowned Detroit’s “flour king” for owning the largest flour mills in the Midwest, this 37-foot high-rise was built in the late 1920s. The striking art deco building is most notable for its sleek exterior, which features rose-colored brick. The first three floors have an exterior face of marble and limestone.

Located near Capitol Park, the building also features sculptures by Corrado Parducci.

St. Anne - Detroit architecture

Basilica of Sainte Anne de Detroit Roman Catholic Church
1000 St Anne St, Detroit, MI 48216

The second-oldest continually operating Roman Catholic church in the United States, the Basilica of St. Anne de Detroit was building 1886. The basilica is a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture and also is home to the oldest stained glass windows in the city of Detroit.

remarkable churches in michigan

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
44 W Philadelphia St, Detroit, MI 48202

Built in 1911 by well-known church architect Sidney Rose Badgley, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church features an English Gothic design style.

This beautiful church is home to some notable features including a lantern-styled dome of stained glass. It also has a unique, curved balcony in the arched sanctuary. While Detroit is home to many historic Catholic churches, many Protestant houses of worship feature striking designs and are worth checking out. Don’t miss:

  • Central United Methodist Church
    23 E Adams Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
  • Cathedral Church of St. Paul
    4800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48206
  • Historic Little Rock Baptist Church
    9000 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI, United States, Michigan
  • St. John’s Episcopal Church
    2326 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

Detroit Architecture Tour Neighborhoods to See

Arden Park- East Boston Historic District

Located near Woodward Avenue, Arden Park Boulevard, and East Boston Boulevard, the neighborhood features 92 homes dating back to the 1890s. The neighborhood once housed the captains of Detroit business and industry near the turn of the century and it is still an upscale pocket of Detroit.

You’ll find a wide range of architectural styles including Tudor, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance, and Prairie style here.

Palmer Woods Historic District

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1893, you’ll find almost 300 spacious homes in this sprawling northwest Detroit neighborhood near Palmer Park.

You’ll find a mix of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, French Gothic Revival, and more. There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright gem here, too: the 4,300-square-foot Turkel House, featuring 500 windows.

PRO-TIP: You can find another stunning Frank Lloyd Wright home, the Smith House, a Usonian home in Bloomfield Hills in the metropolitan Detroit area.

East Ferry Avenue Historic District

Surely you’ve heard of the Ferry-Morse Seed Company? This historic neighborhood in Midtown Detroit rests on land that once was the original Ferry farm. Located near Woodward Avenue and Beaubien, the East Ferry District boasts mansions dating back to the 1880s.

You’ll find stunning examples of Queen Anne architecture, complete with turrets and bay windows; as well as some Colonial and Romanesque-revival style homes. Don’t miss the Col. Frank J. Hecker House, a mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places.

belle isle fountain - detroit architecture

More Architecturally Significant Detroit Buildings to See

  • Detroit Opera House
    1526 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226
  • Detroit Public Library
    5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202Detroit Metropolitan Building
  • Lafayette Park, designed by Mies van der Rohe
    33 John R St, Detroit, MI 48226
  • James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle
    Sunset Dr, Detroit, MI 48207
  • Henry Fords Piquette Avenue Plant Museum
    461 Piquette Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
  • Hart Plaza
    1 Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI 48226
What Kind of Architecture is in Detroit?

You’ll find a wide variety of styles of architecture in Detroit, including Art Deco, Beaux Arts, Postmodern, Prairie-style. Usonian, Neo-Gothic, Queeen Anne, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revial, French Revival and more.

More Places to Visit in Detroit

top michigan vacation spots
14 Top beaches in Metro Detroit
Guide to Detroit-Style pizza
Detroit zoo guide

About the Author –

SaMya Overall is a Content Writer at . She is a fourth-year graduating senior at Michigan State University. She currently works as Editor-in-Chief of The State News, Michigan State’s award-winning student media company. Prior to becoming EIC, she worked as a campus reporter and copy chief at The State News. She’s passionate about Detroit and its surrounding area, and is a low-key collegiate sports lover on her free time.