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The McGregor Memorial Conference Center, designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki of Yamasaki, Leinweber & Associates, Detroit, Michigan, was constructed in 1957-58. Financed by the McGregor Foundation, the building, dedicated to the memory of the foundation founders and philanthropists Tracy McGregor and wife and widow Katherine Whitney McGregor, was a gift to Wayne State University for use as a community conference center. The building meets National Register criterion C at the national level of significance in that it marked the beginning of Yamasaki’s national and eventually international reputation as an architect and as the designer of a brand new type of Modernism that consciously strove for beauty and embraced the goals of “richness of texture and form” and “a sense of peace and serenity through interior spatial arrangement and sensitive landscaping.” The McGregor Conference Center was the first component of Yamasaki’s substantial body of work for Detroit’s Wayne State University in the 1956-64 period that also included a master plan for the campus and three other campus buildings and it was the first of his many important commissions in Detroit. The McGregor Memorial Conference Center continues to serve its original purpose today.
The pool and garden area surrounding it were integral to Yamasaki’s design for the conference center. He saw them as an “oasis,” a place for students to stop and get away from the street noise and traffic of the inner city. A 1955 letter to the university from the McGregor Foundation’s secretary outlining plans for McGregor Memorial Conference Center makes clear that the sculpture court was part of the project from its initiation. Yamasaki stated that “Water is a very important ingredient in a concrete city, because it changes as building materials don’t – to give pleasure to those who see it.” He said he used water as much as possible as an offset to his designs. In addition, in regard specifically to McGregor, he stated that he designed gardens and reflecting pool around the building because he was afraid of what the university might do with the space.
ARCHITECT, BUILDER, OR DESIGNER(S)
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