400 Monroe Associates


Guardian Building Renovation and Restoration

Detroit, Michigan


Building Systems Consulting, Historic Preservation, Interior Architecture


With its bold vaulted spaces and lavishly tiled interiors, the 1929 Guardian Building stands as one of the most notable Art Deco high rises in the nation. It also is a testament to the sustainability and legacy of great architecture: The building’s architect was Wirt Rowland of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls—the predecessor of SmithGroupJJR, which has its corporate headquarters here. Wayne County, which purchased the building in 2008, has consolidated numerous departments on multiple floors. It turned to SmithGroupJJR to update the building’s mechanical systems and improve its functionality, without compromising historic significance or disrupting tenants.
For optimum flexibility, operational effectiveness and construction cost savings, the plan needed to be based on a uniform design for all floors. The team conducted tenant workshops to identify primary objectives and build user consensus, resulting in a flexible core with both enclosed offices and open workstations. Existing building elements—such as the geometric patterning and intricate textures—became essential design elements. The entire building remained occupied and operational during the renovation. The result is an efficient, comfortable, modern workplace, yet one that celebrates the building’s historical significance.