Art: The Road to Xanadu

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concrete— namely, concrete. Unimaginative, cost-cutting architects often feel forced to use confining, standardized materials, the metal and glass that show in so many undistinguished buildings. Yamasaki has escaped this tyranny (and yet preserved his reputation for economical construction) by adopting or devising with his favorite engineer, John Skilling of Seattle, up-to-date ways of using concrete, a basically cheap material. Prestressing and precasting strong columns, girders and large wall sections (see diagram) has freed many of his buildings from the limitations of structural steel or poured-on-the-job concrete. The chance to get sun-andshadow patterns by repeatedly casting structural parts in the same sculptured mold gives Yamasaki's architecture much of its embellishment. And he uses various devices, typically quartz surfacing, to avoid a raw-concrete look. Silhouette & Surprise. The first opportunity to put the ideas from his trip into practice came in August of 1955, when Detroit's drab Wayne State University commissioned Yamasaki to design the McGregor Memorial Community Conference Center. His concept was that the building should be a gateway between the city and the campus, a sort of open glass gallery lined with conference rooms on each side. He chose concrete folded slabs with triangular ends to provide a dramatic "silhouette against the sky." He set glass walls behind slender, marble-clad steel columns with ornamental sunshades and grilles to provide "texture." For "surprise," he provided a triangular-patterned skylight over the two-story-high central gallery, and for "delight" an el-shaped pool outside with islands of white gravel. When the building opened in 1958, there was a ceremony at which Yamasaki, who is no orator, made a brief speech, thanking the university for the opportunity it had given him. When he finished, he was stunned to find that every person in the

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