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Michigan State Medical Society building, designed by star architect Minoru Yamasaki, is up for sale

The Michigan State Medical Society building
Posted at 8:32 AM, Nov 18, 2021

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State Medical Society building in East Lansing is one of the state's finest examples of modernist architecture.

It was built in the 1960s by the Christman Company and designed by world-renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center.

And it's for sale, with a listing price of $4.3 million.

"This is an iconic structure, iconic architecture. It's an iconic location here in the heart of East Lansing," said Eric Rosekrans, senior vice president of Martin Commerical Properties.

Its tall narrow windows that run up to its unique repeating arch roofline make the building stand out.

A close up of the reapeating arch roofline on the Michigan State Medical Society building
A close up of the arch roofline on the Michigan State Medical Society building

"There are two buildings here that are connected with an atrium," Rosekrans said. "It really is beautiful. It's beautiful grounds and you've got the trees that help shade the building and give it some perspective from a natural standpoint, but it really is it's the architecture of the building that sets it off from other properties in the Midwest."

The original structure was completed in 1961 for the Michigan State Medical Society. It's now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

It was nominated because of its a stellar early example of Yamasaki's New Formalist style, built as his fame was just beginning to spread.

"Yamasaki was actually of Asian American descent. And so it's actually a really unique story about how he was sort of an ethnic minority who was up and coming in the architecture field, which was largely dominated by white males for much of the 20th century," said Nathan Nietering, project coordinator at the State Historic Preservation Office of Michigan.

Minoru Yamasaki
Architect Minoru Yamasaki of Detroit, commissioned to design the U.S. Consulate in Kobe-Osaka area of Japan, is pictured Feb. 5, 1954, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ernest King)

Yamasaki also designed four different buildings on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit.

"That was sort of his first big, major success in Michigan, and actually as a result of that he settled in Michigan, and his architecture firm was based in Michigan, from the mid-1950s, until he passed away in 1986," Nietering said.

The Michigan State Medical Society building project was his first big project outside of the Detroit area.

The Michigan State Medical Society building
The Michigan State Medical Society building

From the large board room to the placements of the offices, the inside feels open and spacious.

"It focused a lot on open-air, natural sunlight, that whole front wall and the back wall to are almost completely glass. So there's a lot of natural light that filters through the building, which I think it makes it really unique and special," Nietering said.

Boardroom inside of the Michigan State Medical Society building
Boardroom inside of the Michigan State Medical Society building

Henry Guthard was a principal partner and executive vice president of Yamasaki Associates Inc. He says he worked closely with Yamasaki for about 30 years.

"I knew him from the mid '40s when he came to the firm that I was apprenticing in as the chief architectural designer. I was very much impressed with him," Guthard said.

Henry J. Guthard
Henry J. Guthard

When Yamasaki opened his own firm, he asked Guthard to be his director of engineering.

"It was a remarkable experience because he was such a brilliant architect," Guthard said.

He says Yamasaki's explanations of his complex ideas only made aspects of the design more impressive.

"That really was really a remarkable experience when he would humanize the architecture of his buildings," Guthard said

The Michigan State Medical Society is parting ways with the building because, with developments in technology and new work styles brought about by the pandemic, "their model has changed and the building is just too big for them at this point," Rosekrans said.