Walter Sanders papers: 1929-1971 (bulk 1937-1970)
Summary Information
Title: Walter Sanders papers
Creator: Sanders, Walter, 1906-1972
Inclusive dates: 1929-1971
Bulk dates: 1937-1970
Extent: 1.3 linear feet (in 2 boxes)
Extent: 1 oversize folder
Architect, professor of architecture at the University of Michigan. Biographical information; subject files relating to his professional activities, his involvement with the International Congress for Modern Architecture, his interest in architectural education, and his own design work; photographs and architectural drawings. The collection includes correspondence exchanged with Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius. There is also a letter from Lewis Mumford.
Call number: 9637 Aa 2
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid created by Thomas E. Powers, 1996

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was transferred from the Art and Architecture Rare Book Library of the University of Michigan (donor no. 8439) in 1996.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, Walter Sanders papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Walter Sanders was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on July 30, 1906. He graduated from the University of Illinois (B.S. in architecture, 1929) and the University of Pennsylvania (Master of Architecture, 1930). A practicing architect throughout his career, Sanders was also someone who was concerned with the teaching of architecture and the development of a curriculum that viewed architectural training from a broader perspective. "The primary concern of architecture," he once wrote, "is man and the environment in which he moves, works and enjoys his life, for environmental spaces, internal or external, are for the living. To create spaces commensurate with the importance of man, the architect must be aware of the sensory characteristics of man - his seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling and all his various activities." (1961 radio talk, Sanders "Talks" folder).

Upon graduation, Sanders moved to New York City to begin his practice and to teach and to write. From 1930 to 1936, he was an instructor in architecture at Columbia University, and from 1936 to 1938, he was associate editor of American Architect and Architectural Forum. In 1938, he established the firm of Sanders & Breck (1938-1942), and in 1939, he began lecturing at the Pratt Institute (1939-1940). Following the interruption for wartime service, Sanders returned to New York, establishing the firm of Sanders & Malsin (1946-1950) and returning to Columbia as a lecturer (1946-1949).

In 1947, Sanders was invited to lecture at the University of Michigan. He taught several courses there while still maintaining his New York residence. Then, in 1949, Sanders was appointed professor of architecture at the U-M. His firm of Sanders & Malsin relocated in Ann Arbor at the same time. Sanders was a well-respected member of his department. He taught courses in the department until his death in 1972, served as chairman from 1954 to 1964, and in 1969 was the recipient of the University's Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award. In the memorial written upon his death, March 19, 1972, the Regents of the University of Michigan wrote, "Professor Sanders helped align the curriculum in architecture more precisely with current professional practice, using as one of his instruments the new Doctor of Architecture program, which he himself had conceived and planned." (Regents Proceedings, April 1972, pp. 1448-49).

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Walter Sanders collection consists of architectural drawings and photographs, correspondence, and subject files dating from the mid-1930s to his death in 1972. The collection begins with a folder of biographical material followed by a series of folders arranged alphabetically by topic or type of material. Judging by the fullness of his career, it is apparent that these materials represent but a fragment of the documents created and accumulated by Walter Sanders during his professional lifetime. The materials extant in this collection provide a sampling of Sanders' designs, his architectural philosophy, his professional associations, and his teaching career.

The richest portions of the collection include those files of correspondence with other architects and his association with CIAM (the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) or the International Congress for Modern Architecture. Some of Sanders' correspondents include Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, and Lewis Mumford. There are few materials in this collection relating to Sanders' own designs. Except for photographs and drawings of his Ann Arbor residence, the most interesting drawings are for the Pencil Point Home Competition (undated) and for the Chile Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Course and class material is also limited though something of Sanders' views on architecture will be found in the "Talks" folder.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Architects -- Michigan.
  • Architecture -- Study and teaching -- United States.
  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Dwellings.
  • Architecture -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Dwellings -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Architectural drawings.
  • Photographs.
  • Sanders, Walter, 1906-1972.
  • International Congress for Modern Architecture.
  • University of Michigan. College of Architecture and Design.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • Sanders, Walter, 1906-1972.
  • Unistrut Corporation (Wayne, Mich.)
  • Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983.
  • Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969.
  • Mumford, Lewis, 1895-1990.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Professional files [series]
Box   1  
Biographical information
Box   1  
Architectural education, notes and writings on 1956-1968
Box   1  
Architectural registrations (arranged by state)
Box   1  
Architecture and design, notes and writings on 1947-1962, undated
Box   1  
Building costs 1950
Box   1  
Class materials 1960, 1964, undated
Box   1  
Clients 1950-1951

(specifications, billings, etc. for Ann Arbor projects)

Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM)/International Congress for Modern Architecture
Box   1  
Undated, 1929-1956 (scattered) (4 folders)
Box   1  
Box   1  
Box   1  
Box   1  
1951-1959, 1971
Box   1  
Designers of shelter in America 1936-1937
Box   1  
Fuller, Buckminster (correspondence with) 1946-1952
Box   1  
Groups and committees 1959-1965
Box   1  
Box   1  
Pencil Points Home Competition drawings (pencil on tracing paper)
Box   1  
Productive Home Architectural Competition 1939

(WS was Professional Adviser to the Competition)

Box   1  
Revere Copper and Brass 1941-1942

(article written by WS, background materials, and photographs relating to use of new materials to provide more flexible housing)

Box   1  
Rockefeller Home Center Advisory Board 1940-1941
Box   1  
Sanders & Malsin, Architects 1949-1950

(includes photographic negatives of the firm's Ann Arbor office)

Box   1  
Sanders residence, 99 Barton Drive North, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1952-1970 (3 folders)

(includes photographs; see also box 2)

Box   1  
Smith-Miller, Sanders & Breck, Architects 1939

(rendering for Chile Pavilion, New York World's Fair)

Box   1  
State Capitol Building (design for new) 1969-1970 (3 folders)
Box   1  
Talks, lectures, etc. 1958-1968 (scattered)
Box   1  
Photographs of designs and completed projects by WS

(also photographs used to accompany articles)

Box   2  
Architectural drawings, of Sanders residence at 99 Barton Drive North, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1952 (3 folders (pencil on tracing paper; blueprints))
Box   2  
Photographs, of Sanders residence at 99 Barton Drive North, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1952 (1 folder)
Box   2  
Unistrut House photograph book
Oversize Folder   1  
Drawings of the Oscar Eberbach residence in Ann Arbor, Michigan (3 items (pencil on cardboard))