Wayne State University Law Library

People: O’Dell, Hewlett & Luckenbach

Date: 1966

City: Detroit

The Wayne State University Law School and Library are two separate buildings that make up the original Law School complex. The Law School is a single-story structure that features five lecture halls. All of the classrooms are in the shape of an arc, tiered for maximum ease of communication between students in classroom discussions, and furnished with double seats that can be used as single seats when class size permits.

Both structures were financed by state and private funds and were completed in 1966 at a total cost of $2.5 million. The Law Library itself is a three-story building that contains the library, six seminar rooms, and a moot courtroom. Within the library, all of the seating is placed along the outside window walls and all of the stacks are located within the central core of each story.

University planning director Gilbert Dodge stated that the university wanted both structures of the complex to be “more traditional and dignified architecturally” and intended for them to “complete the frame around the McGregor Memorial Conference Center which Community Arts Building now partially provides.” The primary concept behind the construction and design of the Law School Complex was to focus attention on the Law Library while maintaining the convenience of keeping the classrooms on the ground-floor level. Exterior walls of both the Law Library and the neighboring Law School are of brick, concrete, and glass. The two buildings are connected to each other by a fifty-foot colonnaded arcade.

The architect for the Law School complex was O’Dell, Hewlett, and Luckenbach Associates of Birmingham, Michigan. This firm was active in the Detroit area during the mid-century, producing large Modern buildings, including Ford Auditorium in Detroit’s Civic Center (1956, demolished 2011), two Cranbrook gymnasiums (1959 and 1964), and the Pontiac Silverdome (1975).

(Text excerpted from the Wayne State University Walking Tour script developed by the City of Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board staff.)