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Nathan Johnson

A student of Donald White, Johnson started working at the White & Francis firm in 1950 after he had arrived in Detroit from Herington, Kansas. His style is more modernist than his predecessor, specifically with a futuristic “Googie” style. Johnson was eventually hired by shopping mall architect Victor Gruen for the design and construction of the Eastland Center. He branched out into his own firm in 1956 and became celebrated for his redesign of the Oriole Theatre into New Bethel Baptist Church in 1963. Another building designed by him is Stanley Hong’s Mannia Cafe on Baltimore Street. In the 1980s at the direction of Coleman Young, he designed the People Mover stations in downtown Detroit. In 2019, the Detroit News wrote that “Johnson has become a source of inspiration for younger black architects.” Johnson’s work, like White’s, is currently being researched by the Noir Design Parti Project, who offer tours of his work.



Matthew Piper, “Designing the Future: The Legacy of Black Architects in Detroit.” Curbed Detroit. July 5, 2019. Accessed July 18, 2020.

Michael Hodges, “Saturday tour to celebrate Detroit’s early black architects.” The Detroit News. Oct 9, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2020.

“Oriole Becomes a Fine Church: New Glory for Old Theater.” The Detroit Free Press. Mar 11, 1963, p. 3.

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