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Construction of the Library

In 1920, Clements offered his collection to the University of Michigan, along with $175,000 (plus $15,000 for furnishings and equipment) to build a suitable home for it. Noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn (1869-1942) designed the Clements Library in the Italian Renaissance style, based on Vignola’s casino for the Villa Farnese, ca.1587, in Caprarola, Italy. In Kahn’s plan, the casino, a one-story building, was enlarged to two stories, the roof flattened, the windows lengthened, and an elegant triple-arched entrance created. Finally, Kahn further ornamented the limestone exterior with relief sculpture and inlaid marble, the whole resulting in a building of extraordinary beauty and architectural coherence. At the end of a brilliant career, with buildings to his credit as diverse as the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant and the skyscraper General Motors Building in Detroit, Kahn said that he wanted most to be remembered for the Clements Library.