Rackham (Detroit) Façade Bas Reliefs

Marshall Fredericks
1941; Bronze, Marble; Architectural Feature
Other; Façades of Rackham Educational Memorial, 100 Farnsworth, Detroit

This building in downtown Detroit, close by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library, was a gift of the Horace and Mary Rackham Fund (as was the Rackham Building in Ann Arbor). Given equally to the University of Michigan and the Engineering Society of Detroit, the bas reliefs on all façades were the work of noted Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks. Over the main entrance portal, surmounting the four piers, are a group of four bas reliefs symbolizing the integrated purpose of the building. On the right pier is a figure representing learning to identify the university’s function, and on the left pier is a relief which symbolizes engineering. Both reliefs are tied together by the rays of the sun on the center two piers, symbolizing human progress. Among the large bas reliefs carved from massive blocks of marble are figures on each of the wings that also represent learning and engineering (front, back, and both ends of the building). These wings provide individual entrances to the Engineering Society and the University of Michigan’s Extension Service, and also feature decorative detailing in cast bronze. In addition, two carvings are incised into the stone and represent periods of educational development; the one shown in the photo depicts “technical aspects of Modern Education,” which is “illustrated by the moving picture projector and the microscope.” Fredericks is also the sculptor of the numerous LSA building bas reliefs, as well as American Eagle at Michigan Stadium.