A masterpiece by Minoru Yamasaki, one of America’s most renowned Modern architects, the McGregor Memorial Conference Center was built in 1958 on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit. Tucked in the ell of two International-style buildings, the McGregor Center, a two-story symmetrical pavilion with a reflecting pool and sculpture garden, epitomizes Yamasaki’s design aesthetic and serves as an island of serenity and beauty on the busy downtown campus. 
 
Known as “Yama” to his friends, Yamasaki began as a straightforward International-style designer in the tradition of Mies van der Rohe. After traveling around the world, including Japan, his architectural vision and style evolved to center on the principles of serenity, surprise, and delight. He combined these concepts with the honest expression of structure and use of modern materials and methods that were emblematic of the Modern movement. Although the World Trade Center’s twin towers are his most well-known work, the McGregor Center is perhaps his best design. 
 
Recently, Quinn Evans Architects completed two projects related to the preservation and restoration of this unique property. We assisted in the Center’s nomination as a National Historic Landmark and designed the restoration of the reflecting pool and sculpture garden. The Center was the first of Yamasaki’s works to incorporate water features, as he had observed in Japan’s gardens, and the pool and garden are among the few remaining from his work. Our team returned to Yamasaki’s original drawings to craft a design that restored the original appearance while improving its performance. Repairs to the concrete structure and installation of a waterproof liner corrected the technical deficiencies that had left the pool empty for many years due to perennial leaking issues. Landscaping to match the original concept replaced elements contrary to Yamasaki’s design that had been added to the site over the years.  
 
At a ceremonial celebration in May, Yamasaki’s daughter and the Japanese Consul General in Detroit poured ceremonial pitchers of water into the pool. With the sculptures reinstalled and the pool filled, Yama’s masterpiece is once more inspiring visitors with serenity and delight.