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Tour of All Four Yamasaki Buildings on the WSU Campus

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This post was authored by Curbed contributor MJ Galbraith.


Photographs by Andrew Kopietz. The Detroit Design Festival took place last week. We figured that while we couldn't make it to every one of the 50+ events, we couldn't miss the Yamasaki tour happening at Wayne State University. Only a handful of architects have made so many contributions to Michigan architecture. There's the obvious One Woodward Avenue, of course, but Minoru Yamasaki designed a number of buildings all over the region, from Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township to the recently demolished Quo Vadis movie theater in Westland. All this from the man who designed New York's World Trade Center.

Wayne State has four Yamasaki buildings on its campus, all dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. Kathleen Marcaccio of Preservation Detroit and DetroitYES! led our fairly sizable group through each one of them. We began with the McGregor Memorial Conference Center, Yamasaki's first commissioned work for the university. Yamasaki began to receive international acclaim for his "new kind of modernism" with the completion of the McGregor. Behind the building is a Yamasaki-designed pond, which is currently being renovated by the university.

Following the McGregor was the College of Education building. According to our guide, Yamasaki deemed his creation the "wedding cake building." When he was presenting the design to Wayne State's Board of Governors, Yamasaki placed bride and groom wedding cake figurines on top of the model building. The narrow windows you see were a compromise between Yamasaki and WSU's administration, as the Board of Governors fought hard for a building with no windows at all. You have to laugh not to cry.

The final two buildings come as a two-fer, connected by an underground tunnel. Prentis Hall and DeRoy Auditorium opened in 1964 and were the last of Yamasaki's contributions to Wayne State. While we wish that the whole campus could have been designed by Yamasaki, we're sure he didn't mind getting that World Trade Center gig.

· Detroit Design Festival [Official]
· Quo Vadis Theater [Michigan Modern]
· Suggestions for Dan Gilbert: How Not to Ruin an Iconic Yamasaki High Rise [Curbed Detroit]
· Architect Minoru Yamasaki's Work To Be Restored at Wayne State [Curbed Detroit]