A prominent feature of the 1927 Detroit Institute of Arts building is the 1200 seat auditorium, designed by Paul Philippe Cret as a venue for film, lectures and live performances. Now regarded as one of the most important architects of large-scale American civil engineering projects during the early 20th century, Cret was fluent in both modern as well as neoclassic styles. He was also a pioneering industrial designer, whose visionary Burlington Pioneer Zephyr streamliner locomotive is now on permanent display inside the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. For the DIA Auditorium Cret collaborated with Detroit architect C. Howard Crane, designer of several lavish Detroit theatres of the 1920s such as Detroit's Fox Theatre. The auditorium combines Cret's elegant sense of space and occasion with Crane's theater engineering sophistication.
Innovative elements of the auditorium include ceiling and walls that were designed around the extensive classical pipe organ built by Casavant Freres of Montreal. The mezzanine level Crystal Gallery reception space features a two-story, vaulted gallery with floor to ceiling crystal reflecting walls on either end. Many decorative elements, such as the wrought iron interior grilles by Samuel Yellin and colorful fountains and terra-cotta tiles along the staircase from Detroit's Pewabic Pottery, represent the highest level of American craftsmanship from the era.