Maija Grotell Is the Potter Who Helped Shape Architecture at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Metropolis Magazine
Central to Cranbrook Academy of Art is the influence of craft, especially in Architecture. This significance was built up by Maija Grotell, the first and longest-serving head of Ceramics at the Academy. In fact, she was responsible for changing the title of the program from pottery to ceramics – where the focus was not just an object, but the development of materials, processes, and the ability to enhance spaces.
She became known for her radical experimentation with glazes creating shades that ranged from intense blues to bright oranges. Her work with brick glazes is seen in the GM Tech Center designed by Eero Saarinen. Although Alexander Girard was responsible for the color palette, Grotell’s glaze techniques made the colored bricks suitable for commercial use. You can see colored bricks on the Cranbrook campus inspired by Grotell, including the custom “Grotell Blue” bricks on the Natatorium, made by Endicott Clay for Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s design.