Ted Luderowski: Head of Design, 1949-1957

When I was asked, last summer, to make an impromptu display about Theodore (Ted) Luderowski, I found an inspiring story that begins in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City and continues with a lasting contribution to the landscape at Cranbrook and its educational, artistic, and cultural ethos.

Luderowski first arrived at Cranbrook as a student in 1939 after being awarded a competitive scholarship to study architecture under Eliel Saarinen while also “delving into the problems of metalwork and ceramics.” Born and raised in New York City, Luderowski left high school in 1927 at the age of 17, later graduating in 1932 after taking evening classes. He continued to take evening classes at Columbia University, where he studied design, shades and shadows, and perspective. He also studied for three years at the Mechanics Institute (General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York), which was founded in 1785, where he was awarded the John E. Hoe Prize.

His initial instruction in architecture was through on-the-job training at firms, including the office of James Gamble Rogers. Luderowski was involved in designing schools, office buildings, residences, and institutional buildings, and in the planning of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.

Theodore Luderowski, November 1950. Cranbrook Archives.

Arriving in 1939, Luderowski entered many external design competitions during his studentship at the Academy. The documents around these competitions are always a rich resource for researching and understanding the relationships between student artists, their peers, and mentors. The documents held at Cranbrook Archives that outline the problem of the competition, who entered and with whom, the photographs of the submissions and participants, as well as personal letters, reveal the camaraderie between the participants—whether they were competing against each other or working on a submission together.

The competitions Luderowski participated in include the Radio Cabinet Competition (Fall 1939) with Edward Elliott and Vito Girone, in which Florence Schust and Christopher Chamales won 2nd prize; the Insulux Glass Brick Competition no. 4: A Newspaper Plant (with Elliott) (March 1939); and Insulux no. 3: A Dairy (August 1939), in which Ralph Rapson won 5th prize.

Aerial view of model for “A People’s Forum in Washington, D.C dedicated to the Bill of Rights.” February 1940. The team included Edward Elliott (architect), Theodore Luderowski (Landscape Architect), Tex Schiwetz (sculptor), and Margaret Garceau (Painter). This team won a second prize of $100. Richard G. Askew, photographer. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

More notably, Luderowski, with Edward Elliott, Ted Schiwetz, and Margaret Garceau, won Second Prize in the 14th Annual Rome Collaborative Competition of Spring 1940 (Jan 6 to Feb 10). The competition for students of architecture, landscape architecture, painting, and sculpture presented the problem of ‘A People’s Forum dedicated to the Bill of Rights’. It was hosted by the Association of the Alumni of the American Academy in Rome and the President was Paul Manship, whose work can be seen in the Quad at Cranbrook School, and the Secondary Vice President was Francis Scott Bradford, whose work can be seen at Christ Church Cranbrook.

After his studies, Luderowski worked as designer in the architectural offices of Eliel and Eero Saarinen before a period of service in the U.S. Navy as a Chief Petty Officer stationed in New York. He was stationed there with his wife, Ulla Ugglas, who had entered the Academy as a weaving student in 1940. Ulla, the daughter of Baron Gustaf Ugglas of Sweden, studied with Marianne Strengell and won first prize in rug design at the Fairchild Publications Weaving Competition in January 1941.

The newlyweds traveled in Scandinavia, Belgium, France, and England, where Luderowski studied architecture and design production methods, before returning to Cranbrook to work in the Saarinen offices again.

Ted Luderowski, left, with students in the design studio, February 1952. Cranbrook Archives.

In 1949, he became Head of the Department of Design at the Academy, which had been established in 1936 with instructor William W. Comstock under the supervision of Saarinen. While the initial emphasis was placed on design of interiors and their furnishings, after 1939, when Charles Eames was instructor, the courses became focused on “preliminary training in design for all branches of work.”

As an architect and furniture designer, a painter, and an exhibition designer, Luderowski brought a breadth of interests to the department which allowed the cultivation of a diversity of design problems, including his supervision of fifteen students in the redesign and mural decoration of the Academy recreation room.

Gate designed by Ted Luderowski, 1952, with Eliel Saarinen’s Nichols Gate, 1941, behind. Kevin Adkisson, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

In 1952, he was asked to design and create wrought iron gates to be placed on the steps leading to Shoe Falls, which are at the far end of Triton Pools opposite the Arts and Crafts Courtyard. In a letter dated January 3, 1952, Henry Scripps Booth suggests that the design should, “be thoroughly practical and discourage youngsters from climbing over the gates, we should also make use of the opportunity to embellish the grounds with an interesting piece of iron work.” Luderowski’s design for the gates is held in our architectural drawing collection and the gates remain in situ on campus providing a wonderful continuance of the founding principle of beautiful and useful.

While within Cranbrook Archives we do not have a discrete collection for Luderowski, who passed away in 1967, he is heavily documented through photographic materials and with supporting information in the Cranbrook Academy of Art Records and Publications. It turned out the impromptu display I was asked to make about Theodore Luderowki last summer was for his son, who lived along Academy Way with his parents as a child and had returned, decades later, as part of a group tour.

—Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

[Editor’s Note: This post has been edited to add information on Luderowski’s study at the Mechanics Institute.]

Photo Friday: The Fate of the North Gates

Arriving at  Cranbrook House you have probably noticed the large wrought iron entrance gates that welcome guests to the property along Lone Pine Road. A collaborative design by Cranbrook Founder, George Gough Booth (1864 – 1949) and Polish-American blacksmith, Samuel Yellin (1885 – 1940), this pair of gates were completed in 1917and are among the most cherished historic decorative elements at Cranbrook. But did you know that they are not the only gates that were a Booth-Yellin collaboration situated on the property?

North Gates

The North (Woods) Entrance Gates in Yellin’s studio, 1917. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Affectionately referred to as the North Gates, the gates seen in this photograph were also a collaborative design by Booth and Yellin. Forged by Yellin in his Philadelphia studio in 1917, the North Gates were installed as a part of a stone entrance wall at the old Cranbrook House entrance drive just north of Kingswood School on Cranbrook Road. When the drive was closed to re-route traffic to the house, the gates were ultimately removed and put into storage where they have remained – until now! Next week the North Gates will be leaving Cranbrook for a short journey to Cleveland for a full restoration. The six month project will include the fabrication of hand-wrought ironwork to replicate missing elements, chiseling to recreate bird faces and leaf veins, sandblasting, and the replication of a historic surface finish. Upon their return next spring the gates will be reinstalled at the new exit drive at Cranbrook House on Lone Pine Road just west of the South Entrance gates. So keep your eyes peeled for the triumphant return of the freshly restored gates!


The original site of the North Gates as it appears today on Cranbrook Road. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki


Gretchen Sawatzki, Associate Registrar


To check out some more gate related information click here and here!

Dispatch from the Archives: “Gatescapes,” Old and New

On October 5, Cranbrook Archives will be opening its second exhibition in the From the Archives series.  From the Archives: Forging Cranbrook’s Gatescape explores the long-lasting significance of gates to Cranbrook’s campus.  Points of transition and transformation, the gates have also long stood as a public display of Cranbrook’s dedication to art and design.

George Gough Booth sketch for a gate.  George Gough Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

George Gough Booth sketch for a gate. George Gough Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook’s love of gates originates with its founding father, George Gough Booth.  Booth, who came from a family of copper and tin metal workers, received early training at the Red Foundry in Ontario, Canada.  This, in part, led to his 1884 purchase of Barnum Wire and Iron Works in Windsor, Ontario with partner Fred Evans.  Booth wrote, “I conceived the idea of creating a new type of industry – selling with my pencil and not so much out of a catalogue – making special designs for fences, signs, bank counter railings…”   One of the earliest gates at Cranbrook designed by George Booth (and fabricated by Detroit Architectural Iron Works in 1916) is the first public gate located at the entrance to the Greek Theatre.

    Greek Theatre gates, designed by George Booth and produced by the Detroit Architectural Iron Works. 1916.

Greek Theatre gates, designed by George Booth and produced by the Detroit Architectural Iron Works. 1916.

Since Booth’s inception of Cranbrook, the community has steadily expanded the campus’ “gatescape.”  The most recent gates installed on campus are the “Valley Way” entrance gates (2012), designed by Architect-in-Residence William Massie.  Located at what was formerly known as the Vaughan Road Entrance, the gates were part of a project which widened the roadway to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety.  Working with Brian Oltrogge, Massie designed an abstraction of geometric triangles, a reference to Eliel Saarinen’s Kingswood gates.   The new gates were fabricated of laser-cut and bent steel.  The hand-bent “infill” was bolted to the steel frame and welded by Jody Cooper, Academy of Art alumni (Architecture Department 2012).

Closeup of Valley Way entrance gates, designed by Cranbrook Academy of Art Architect-in-Residence William Massie. The gates were completed in 2012.

Closeup of Valley Way entrance gates, designed by Cranbrook Academy of Art Architect-in-Residence William Massie. The gates were completed in 2012.

In conjunction with the exhibition opening, I’m going to be leading a walking and bus tour of the gates on Saturday, October 5.  We’ll be exploring all aspects of the gates, from their history in situ to the designers and makers who produced them.  Be sure to sign up here to join us, and get ready to delve deep into Cranbrook’s “gatescape”!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: Cranbrook’s Gatescape


Close-up of the peacock for which Cranbrook School’s Peacock Gates are named. Designed and installed in 1927, restored in 2013. Cranbrook Archives.

Doors, entryways, gates – Cranbrook’s campus was designed with an eye towards points of transition.  Since its foundation 108 years ago, Cranbrook has maintained a long tradition of gate design and fabrication.  This close-up of a stylized peacock comes from Cranbrook School’s famous Peacock Gates; designed by Eliel Saarinen, they were produced by the metalsmith Oscar Bach in 1927.  Recently, a long restoration process culminated with their re-installation on the Cranbrook School campus.   This gate and many others are the subject of the second exhibition in the From the Archives series.  Drawing from the rich collection of the Cranbrook Archives, From the Archives: Forging Cranbrook’s Gatescape explores the history, design, and formation of Cranbrook’s historic and contemporary “gatescape.”

Experiencing the gates from within the walls of the Art Museum is nothing compared to seeing them in person.  With that in mind, Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist and exhibition curator, will be leading a walking and bus tour of the gates on Sunday, October 5.   The tour will take participants  to some of Leslie’s favorite gates, from beloved classics to the newest installations on campus.   More information on the exhibition and walking tour is available here.  Be sure to check it out, and get ready to see Cranbrook’s gates in a whole new light!

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