After more than 30 years of dormancy, Wayne State University is set to breathe new life into the iconic Helen L. DeRoy Auditorium and its long-empty reflection pool.
The restoration project, slated for completion in 2024, not only aims to revive a historic architectural gem, but to enhance the learning environment.
The DeRoy Testamentary Foundation has generously pledged $1.5 million for the restoration of the reflecting pools and auditorium. Work will begin pending Board of Governors approval of the expenditures during their December 7, 2023 meeting.
“The renovations of the DeRoy Auditorium reflection pool and lecture halls are part of Wayne State's commitment to align facilities with the evolving needs of students,” said Laurie Lauzon Clabo, acting provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, the DeRoy Auditorium and its reflection pool have been closed since the 1980s.
Ekta Kamalia, Wayne State's director of design and construction services, says the reason behind the reflecting pool closure has been lost to history, but an inspection revealed an issue with its air intake.
"We are moving the air intake, so if that was the reason they drained the pool and never filled it back up, we've eliminated that with this project," Kamalia said. "The water circulation system has been evaluated and appears to be working fine. This project will likely get the pool to about 99% of how it was before."
Kamalia believes a revived reflection pool will bring people together on campus.
"It has not been active for almost 40 years, so how exciting will it be to see it filled with water," Kamalia exclaimed. "It'll encourage community engagement, collaboration for faculty and students and showcase our commitment to returning the building and environment to their original design."
The areas around the reflecting pool, including the plaza area, the east and west bridges, and planting beds will also be repaired and refreshed.
Once the renovations of the reflection pool are done, the two lecture halls within the DeRoy Auditorium will be renovated in a separate project.
Drawing inspiration from the recently renovated lecture halls in M. Roy Wilson State Hall, the lecture halls will be modernized for optimal collaboration and learning.
The upper DeRoy lecture hall seats 365, while the lower lecture hall seats 283 for a grand total of 648.
Wayne State plans to begin the reflecting pool project this month, with the goal of completion in spring 2024.