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2018 MCHAP

A. Alfred Taubman Wing of the Art and Architecture Building

Preston Scott Cohen & Carl Dworkin

Ann Arbor, MI, USA

August 2017


Preston Scott Cohen / Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. Carl Dworkin / Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.


Integrated Design Solutions (Architect of Record ) Integrated Design Solutions (MEPF Engineer ) Structural Design Incorporated (SDI-Structures) (Structural Engineer) Beckett & Raeder, Inc. (Landscape and Civil) The Christman Company (General Contractor)


A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan


James Haefner


Among the most important and interesting challenges was a twofold demand: on the one hand, to create a building that would stretch from the architecture and planning wing all the way to Bonisteel Blvd and, on the other hand, to make the addition act, despite its position on the edge of the existing building, as if it were the center of the whole school and the nexus of circulation for all the students and faculty. In short, the goal was to establish a center within a linear edge building. By leaving half the ground floor open, the project solves several problems simultaneously. It allows the maximum allowable square footage to stretch from the existing building past the art wing all the way to Bonisteel; it creates an outdoor experimental gallery for student projects; and it permits the courtyard between the existing and new buildings to remain open to the valley and retention pond to the east, thus meeting a demand made by the dean of the art school. Lifting the building also allowed it to be organized according to two sequences: a promenade through the site linking the north campus to the south and an interior ascent from the street to the studio. In addition to the first dualism, the outside and the inside have dialectical responsibilities to respond to the context and produce an exalted interior environment for creative work. The façade, through its striking silhouette, woven brick pattern, and migrating windows finds a synthesis, expressing the character of a modest vernacular factory type while hinting at the special programs within. Both oppositions are related and complementary.


The Taubman College Building Expansion and Renovation Project includes the construction of the A. Alfred Taubman Wing and the first renovation of the existing Art and Architecture Building, built in 1974. The project began in 2009 and was conceived in response to a generous gift from the late A. Alfred Taubman. Taubman’s initial gift was complemented by a gift from the late King C. Stutzman, university funds, and support from alumni and friends of the school. The project proceeded with extensive space planning work by the faculty, students, staff, and others. Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. was selected as the design architect, and IDS as the Architect of Record, in 2014. The project was completed in 2017, on schedule and on budget, for $28.5 million. The project received LEED Gold Certification in 2017. The aim of the project was to create a new center for the school and to enable new forms of collaboration between faculty, staff, students and between the Architecture and Planning programs. To this end, the program envisioned a large space called the commons and unconventional adjacencies between offices, studio space, and smaller group spaces. The commons aspired to manifold functionality as a lounge, review space, work space for fabrication projects, or as a place for large lectures, discussions, and events. Additionally, the college, which occupies the southern portion of a shared building with the school of Art and Design, sought its own independent entrance on the main street to the North.


The completed project is defined on the interior by its daylighting and by the extraordinary spatial expression and experience of collectivity. Instead of clerestories, as are typical in north facing sawtooth roofs of this kind, the vertical surfaces are solid and reflect southern light from a series of sloped linear skylights. The warm color temperature of the reflected light defines the character of the building in contrast to the cold color of the existing studio’s northern light. Formally, the roof system binds all of the new building’s spaces together and thus creates an unusual impression of continuity but without spatial homogeneity. The commons is composed of two pairs of ramps tied together, as if in a knot, by a spiral-like suspended stair. The solid parts of the ramp railings are kept low to enable viewing of the central space from afar. The movement generated by the sequence of stairs and ramps dramatizes the presence of people and experience of centrality. The building multiplies opportunities for informal gathering. The stairs are wide to accommodate pausing for conversation. Tiered spaces define relationships among groups of rooms that locally share the same level. The existing building’s studio has also been transformed, with offices directly accessible along the whole perimeter to allow for constant interaction between students and faculty and between disciplines. On the exterior, a new courtyard between the buildings is defined and activated. The lifting gesture makes the building less an object than a means to frame a sequence through the campus. New views through the building produce astonishing continuity between the existing raised courtyard and the floor of the commons. Thus, they are both experienced as part of a network of significant public outdoor and indoor rooms in the university.

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