Section: Arts

Writer Michael Hodges reflects on art and architecture

Writer Michael Hodges reflects on art and architecture

The Detroit News reporter Michael Hodges will be speaking about his illustrious career, which has taken him from reporting in Venezuela, and his current project: a book about the Detroit architect whose factories helped win World War II. The lecture will take place today at 4:10 p.m. in Finn House’s Cheever Room.

Hodges began his career immediately after graduating from college, working for The Daily Journal as a foreign correspondent in Caracas, Venezuela. Hodges worked in Caracas for 10 months before leaving to tour the rest of South America. In the 35 years since, he has worked as a journalist, a speechwriter for a foreign ambassador and a high school teacher.

He also interviewed New Yorkers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks for The Detroit News.

Beyond journalism, Hodges has a particular fascination with architecture. “The heart of my interest is seeing drama in buildings, that certain buildings are exciting or reassuring,” he said. “They have these emotional qualities.”

In recent years, Hodges has translated his passion into several projects outside his career as a reporter. In 2012, he published the award-winning coffee table book Michigan’s Historic Railway Stations. Hodges also produced his own line of Detroit-themed postcards, created an architecture-appreciation website called “Unexpected Detroit” and gave a speech about Detroit’s architectural appeal titled “There is No Such Thing as Ruin Porn.”

Hodges’ talk will focus on  Albert Kahn, an early-20th-century architect whose Detroit factories contributed to the development of modern architecture. In addition to inspiring the modernist architecture movement in post-World War I Europe, the quality of Kahn’s factories won him a contract in the Soviet Union.

Over two years, his firm helped Russia build nearly 500 factories. These factories produced the supplies needed to defeat the Nazis in World War II. The hundreds of Russians who labored to build the factories were not so lucky; Stalin had them executed so they could not contradict his claim that he had used no outside help to advance the USSR’s industry. Hodges was enthusiastic about this part of Kahn’s story, joking that people expect his book to be boring but that this would “show them.”

Hodges’ talk will be a part of a speaker series run by The Kenyon Review entitled “Writers on Writing.” The series is not centered on writers reading from their work; rather, it is a chance for writers to talk about their craft. “If there’s one theme that kind of unifies what I will be blabbing about, it’s that careers can take real twists and turns and that what you end up loving may surprise you,” Hodges said.

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