We stopped by the Carver Gallery on the downtown Kalamazoo Mall towards the end of the day on a cool Saturday in November. He was there chatting with some folks who had also stopped in. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Norm was friendly and showed us some of the photographs of the homes he has designed around West Michigan, as well as in places like Palm Springs, California. He agreed to meet me at his gallery the following Wednesday (after his morning tennis game) to chat about his work as an architect and photographer.
Norm was born in 1928 in Kalamazoo. His design of the Carver Center and Parish Theatre (next door to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts) reflects his family's involvement in the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre.
He graduated from the Yale University School of Architecture and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study and photograph Japanese architecture, resulting in his book Form and Space in Japanese Architecture. A second Fulbright scholarship took him back to Japan, and to India in 1964. In all, Carver has written ten books about architecture around the world, from Japanese Folkhouses Italian Hilltowns to Silent Cities of Mexico and the Maya to Angkor, as recently as 2011. His design for a married student complex at Western Michigan University reflected his love of the Italian hill towns. Carver has lectured and taught at Yale, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Michigan State University and was visiting professor at King Faisal University in Saudia Arabia.
Carver’s residential designs are found predominantly in Kalamazoo, Michigan. However that doesn't tell the whole story. Carver designed the US Embassy in Seoul, Korea in 1955 (JW King Associate Architects) as well as homes along the lakeshore, in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and California.Three of Norman Carver's homes made Architectural Record House of the year in 1959, 1960 and 1961. Another house, designed for Mary and James Thorne, became the only home in Kalamazoo County besides the Frank Lloyd Wright Parkwyn Village homes to make it into the Buildings of the United States, Michigan volume in 1995.
You can find Carver homes in several areas in Kalamazoo, for example on the cul-de-sac Memory Lane, in his own development Carver Street where he rode horses as a boy, and near the Frank Lloyd Wright houses of Parkwyn Village, which he worked on as a young student. WMM will be featuring more stories about Carver's residential designs in future issues.
With all of these awards and achievements, Norm Carver is glad that he has spent most of his life in Kalamazoo, because he believes Kalamazoo is just a great place to live with great educational institutions, the arts and wonderful interesting people. In fact, as a young architect Carver considered moving to California until family friend John Upjohn asked him to redesign his home on Gull Lake, and he never looked back. Link here to read about the Katydid House designed by Norman F. Carver Jr. http://modernwm.org/#katydid-house-kalamazoosebastian