Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Freeze the Frieze: protest tomorrow

13. March 2006 • David Boyle
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Though the planned UM “North Quad” project has some good points—including for the profits of local business, according to a bloated-looking merchant I recall speaking at a Regents’ meeting a while ago—, there is still the matter of demolishing the Frieze Building, which demolition angers many local residents.
So, according to Ann Arbor Is Overrated. , there is a protest outside the Frieze at 12:30 tomorrow, Tuesday if it rains.
Not that I think there is much chance of freezing the demolition; but it is still good to send signals, and also to see if, say, at least the facade of the building can be saved and incorporated into the final design.
See today’s AA News, ‘It belongs to Ann Arbor’: U-M’s plan to demolish Frieze Building fuels man’s crusade , and Art student’s project will be an elegy for the Frieze: People asked to share images and memories from building’s 99-year history .

UM is often the regional bully, to be frank; perhaps community action can keep this in check, though.



  1. Is this a joke?

    I’ve had classes at the Frieze during at least 5 semesters, and it is easily the worst building on campus. It is rundown, the technology is non-existent, the rooms are cramped and archaic, and the overall feel is just depressing. Walking into that building sucks the energy out of me. The languages and classes taught in that building deserve the same respect and quality: natural light, spacing, tech-adaptivity, common central meeting areas, and a computer lab.

    It’s about time this awful building kicks the bucket.


       —disgruntled student    Mar. 13 '06 - 04:22AM    #
  2. However, part of the facade and other architecture could be saved, for aesthetic/memorial puposes.

    I do agree that I have heard many complaints about conditions within the building, though! Thanks for mentioning that.
       —David Boyle    Mar. 13 '06 - 05:10AM    #
  3. Also, the condition of the building is a function of the university’s disinvestment. Any building could be made unattractive by withholding maintenance. The arguments for or against preservation should focus on the long term value or cost of keeping a building, not the poor lighting or peeling paint that happens to exist at the moment.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 13 '06 - 02:51PM    #
  4. I do think this is a joke. While resident concerns about what will go its place are valid (See: LSA Building) I agree with the first poster. The Frieze is a terrible building. Embarrassingly so.

    The lone crusader cited in the AANews piece has lost his mind. The Parthenon? Are you kidding me? A couple of columns and some relief doesn’t mean the damn thing should be preserved forever. I understand that H.S. Alums have some history in the building.

    I’m sorry. The world keeps moving. We can’t pack the Frieze building in moth balls and pretend that its somehow adequate to serve the needs of the city and of the university.

    Though the building was poorly maintained, the problem goes beyond just poor maintenance. The fixtures, floors, ceiling, technology, façade – everything was old, crumbing and dated.

    Why save it? Even assuming there is something special about the architecture, what’s to say that a new building wouldn’t be even more attractive? If anything, that’s the battle here – making sure that what goes in its place is more West Quad than South Quad, more Angell Hall and less LSA Building.


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 13 '06 - 09:12PM    #
  5. Daniel, given that the University’s chief architect is Robert Venturi, the chance that North Quad will look anything like your positive examples is zero.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 13 '06 - 09:35PM    #
  6. I posted the protest time because I thought it was newsworthy, but it’s one of the worst NIMBY crusades I’ve seen in a while.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 13 '06 - 10:19PM    #
  7. Larry, Bob Venturi was and is not the campus architect. Venturi Scott Brown was a favored firm here for a while but that was only under Bollinger’s tenure, and their presence faded with his replacement (and with their poor job of the Life Sciences Institute & the stadium fiasco, but that’s another post altogether).

    The firm doing North Quad is Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany, New York, according to this press release. This is the same company that renovated Mason and Haven halls on the Diag. The only image I’ve found was in the Record, and it is just a massing model. Still, odds are good that it will be a modern style rather than pseudo-historical.

    As for the building’s condition, I had the same experience as the disgruntled student. I took classes at the Frieze for 4 years, and hated going to it. It was sorely under- and over-heated, too small for the deparments located there, out-of-date mechanical systems including no AC and poor lighting, and needed to be completely gutted if it was going to be at all useful. In addition it has the problems of asbestos, lead paint, etc. Given those remediation and remodeling expenses, a new building was actually not that much more for the same amount of space, and the new building will provide more student housing to boot. This marks the first time the UM has invested in student housing since the 1960s – and the student population has increased by about 15,000 since then.


       —KGS    Mar. 13 '06 - 11:14PM    #
  8. Preliminary sketches of North Quad will be presented to the Regents Friday.


       —Dale    Mar. 14 '06 - 01:53AM    #
  9. ...Dadams: you think the facade is totally unsavable? Maybe it is not as bad as the interior. . .

    oiaa: NIMBY? Eeeee!
    —Well, I said perhaps the interior is doomed anyway, but possibly some of the outside of the Frieze (maybe one of the friezes, ha) can be somehow preserved. . .

    DW: You’re not moving to Chicagooo, are you? A loss for us if so.
       —David Boyle    Mar. 14 '06 - 02:52AM    #

  10. Dale,
    Any chance one or more of the sketches presented to the Regents could be posted to AU?


       —HD    Mar. 14 '06 - 03:04AM    #
  11. D—Not moving for more than a year. HD—if I can get my hands on them, they’ll be up here.


       —Dale    Mar. 14 '06 - 03:58AM    #
  12. KGS: Ah, so it will be a pseudo-historical 1950s International Style relic, then, like the awful replacement building under construction across the street. An attempt to recapture the grim sterility of the bare concrete and glass box era, only done in economical Dryvit this time.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:21AM    #
  13. (But I am strongly, strongly in favor of the university investing in more student housing, and I’d be hard put to find a more suitable site than that one.)


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:24AM    #
  14. What is Dryvit, sorry? For those of us who aren’t architectural archons…


       —David Boyle    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:43AM    #
  15. Larry, Todd L. pointed out a while back that privately constructed (i.e., not on U property) student housing would pay property taxes. Would you rather have the U do it for some reason?


       —Steve Bean    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:56AM    #
  16. It’s an “economical” exterior finish for buildings. Pros and Cons:

    http://www.fredbernstein.com/articles/display.asp?id=81

    http://www.dryvit.com/


       —John Q.    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:59AM    #
  17. The University of Mi. is going to do what they D—- well please,just like our city council


       —Irene    Mar. 14 '06 - 05:02AM    #
  18. Steve, I think the University does a better job with group housing than the private sector—partly because they’re able to do things a private landlord couldn’t, or wouldn’t bother with, and partly because the University can tie a residence hall lifestyle into academics much more effectively.

    Not all students should (or want to be) housed that way. However, as the University grows, the number of dormitory spaces should grow, too—and nothing has been added in years.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 03:34PM    #
  19. You know, working with unusual constraints can, many times, yield interesting solutions (don’t you think Mr. K?). The new sports building on State was reworked to preserve the tree and is better for it. In this case, I would suspect that a new building could be figured out which could use some, or all, of the old façade and still make new spaces inside that meet current needs. Does the University or their architect want to preserve this and can they pull it off? I don’t know. I have seen some examples in the US that are good and some bad, but the Europeans do it a lot, with outstanding results. It takes more time and money than tearing it down but it can preserve a little history and memory and craftsmanship (they don’t build ‘em like that anymore). Yes, its not the Parthenon, but its OK and can continue to contribute to the fabric of the city even if the function changes. And certainly the University should not cry poor so that they can simply tear it down; ask them how much it costs to do parabolas and spirals in concrete and steel.

    Anyway, if the University does decide to demolish it I would hope that they take the façade apart and put it somewhere, like in the Arb. There is a place in Canada called the Guild Inn, East of Toronto, that somehow acquired a number of pieces of buildings from Toronto’s past and they reassembled them in their fields. The result is very cool, like the ruins of Rome. Some of this was also done in DC where columns from a renovation of the Capitol were re-erected in the National Arboretum there. You can see some of this on these sites:

    Guild Inn http://www.guildwood.on.ca/Site/Home.html (you have to look around; their agenda is different than mine.)

    DC Arboretum http://www.photodc.com/stock/default.asp?main.asp~mainFrame (best images I could find in 5 minutes)

    My first desire though would be to preserve some of the past building right there, as this is not some trailer park or old Kmart. It is, and was, a proud building and it should not simply be dozed.

    Oh and Dryvit? I’ve got one word for you, “plastic”. Looks like concrete, feels like plastic.


       —cb    Mar. 14 '06 - 03:40PM    #
  20. Larry, not every glass, steel, & concrete building is a “pseudo-historical 1950s International Style relic”. Modern architecture has moved beyond that, believe it or not. Though I agree Dryvit would be awful, not least because it lasts maybe 20 years max… but the U knows that much, at least.


       —KGS    Mar. 14 '06 - 04:57PM    #
  21. Can any of the architecture types around here estimate the cost of keeping the State St. facade on a new structure built behind/above, relative to the same building without the State St. facade?

    Though it seems to me that, if part of the plan is to make the building fit into the streetscape and make it pedestrian-friendly, then keeping the facade would be bad. As maligned as BW3’s is, their sidewalk-level windows at least permit a moment’s entertaining voyeurism as one walks by, and their awnings are welcome in the rain. The frieze is just sort of aloof, camped back there away from the sidewalk.


       —TPM    Mar. 14 '06 - 05:32PM    #
  22. Steve – There was that other “north quad” that was going to be privately built near north campus. Googling comes up with a past Arbor Update post on it, giving an opening date of Fall 2006 . As far as I can see, they haven’t started construction yet, but I think one of the things discussed for that project was whether or not the City could require of the developer that the tenants be students. So there have been attempts to get private developers in the act also, but that doesn’t mean the U shouldn’t also be watching out for their people.

    I agree with Larry on the role of the U as a housing provider – there’s not even enough space to house all the freshmen right now, and freshman dorm life is something that shuold be offered to / inflicted upon all students.


       —TPM    Mar. 14 '06 - 05:56PM    #
  23. In general I’m not one for incorporating relics of old buildings into new construction as a substitute for preservation. The result is usually more sad than successful.

    In Cincinnati they have part of the facade of what must have been a theater, one brick deep, totally out of context, all by itself on the long wall of the side of a huge convention center. It looks pathetic.

    Unlike most people here, I think the Frieze is a stately, attractive building, surely well worth renovation were that feasible, but its footprint is wildly wrong for the intended use of the site.

    One thing I do appreciate from the architects is that they don’t tend to make the superficial “needs paint? let’s demolish” kind of argument. It is absolutely legitimate to oppose adaptive reuse based on fundamental concerns about the structure, as opposed to less challenging cosmetic or plumbing kinds of problems.

    Anyway, I apologize for the snarkiness I posted earlier. I’m trying to be constructive here. I am very pessimistic about the design of North Quad, but I sure hope to be proven wrong.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 08:24PM    #
  24. “I’m not one for incorporating relics of old buildings into new construction as a substitute for preservation…”

    I love the Soldier Field alien-spaceship-on-the-original-building design. I think I’m the only person from Chicago who does, though.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 14 '06 - 08:28PM    #
  25. AAIO: I agree that there is something to be said for architectural bizarre-ness. I’m about the only person from East Lansing who loves the multicolored “Habitrail” parking structure.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 08:30PM    #
  26. The university (or any university) has no responsibility to house students except insofar as it feels it supports the educational/research mission of the university. Providing housing is the purview of the private market.

    The only way universities were able to keep up with enrollment growth in the middle of the century was through federal subsidy—WPA grants (East and West Quads) and low-interest financing (Bursley, Baits, Markley, the Northwoods). Just because one generation of students lived in dorms doesn’t mean it has always been so, or should always be so.


       —Dale    Mar. 14 '06 - 08:42PM    #
  27. Then pass the accessory dwelling ordinance. Change zoning so more housing is available. But the Democrats want neither of those. So here is true nimby hypocrisy. Complain that the University is destroying buildings to build more housing and at the same time propose a ban on any new building. Right now renters are 52% of the population and the no growth people are going to ensure they become a minority.


       —Scott    Mar. 14 '06 - 10:36PM    #
  28. There’s plenty of different points of view among Democrats on these issues, so the accusation of “true nimby hypocrisy” against “the Democrats” is misplaced.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 14 '06 - 11:09PM    #
  29. Interestingly, much of the student housing the University currently provides goes vacant at North Campus. There was an article in the Record today talking about how they have changed the name from “Family Housing” to “Northwood Community Apartments” because of multi-year declines in applications from families. The University has had to do a lot of work to try and get that housing filled (there are still many vacancies).

    renters are 52% of the population
    Not sure where this number came from, but don’t forget, not all renters are students. There are many nonstudents who rent in Ann Arbor who are not eligible or interested in University-provided student housing. In addition, there are many students who prefer to live off campus after their freshman or sophomore years. If the University mandated students live on campus during their entire tenure here, that would be a different situation, but as it is, there is more than enough housing to go around (vacancies in the central campus area are at an all-time high) and I don’t think City Council has turned down a single housing project in the downtown area in the last year.

    I’m sorry to see the Frieze go, because I think that it could have been a lovely and useful part of campus. I do think though that its fate was sealed when they put that horrible addition on in the 60s and then let it decline for the next forty years. The time to save the Frieze was at least 20 years ago. Personally, I think that the “Residential Life Initiatives” idea will be obsolete in the next ten years and we will spend a lot of time figuring out what to do with this goofy space that has been created, but that is a future argument.


       —Juliew    Mar. 14 '06 - 11:15PM    #
  30. I read the Record article about Northwood, and it did mention declining applications from families, but it also said that this trend was happening at universities all over the country; it probably has nothing to do with the housing situation in Ann Arbor.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 14 '06 - 11:28PM    #
  31. it probably has nothing to do with the housing situation in Ann Arbor.
    Well, it does have a lot to do with student housing supplied by the University.


       —Juliew    Mar. 14 '06 - 11:56PM    #
  32. There’s certainly a demographic shift in who’s seeking on-campus housing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall demand is down.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 14 '06 - 11:58PM    #
  33. the plans for the replacement to the frieze building do preserve the old carnegie lbrary facade on huron. i think it looks odd, but the school of information (nee school of library science) is moving in to the new building and it would be unseemly to utterly destroy the old carnegie library in its entirety …


       —peter honeyman    Mar. 15 '06 - 01:11AM    #
  34. AA News, Ex-high school faces demolition as plans for North Quad proceed ,

    ”...Said Joann Kennedy, an Ann Arbor native who also graduated from Ann Arbor High in that final class of 1955, “There’s nothing like it on this campus.

    “The woodwork in there, it just talks to you,’’ she said.

    Protesters carried a variety of signs, purchased by Scott. “The Frieze Building must not be razed. Ann Arbor deserves it,’’ read one sign. ...”Mary Sue Coleman, don’t destroy the historic Frieze,’’ read another, imploring U-M’s president. ...”


       —David Boyle    Mar. 15 '06 - 04:51AM    #
  35. Juliew, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on why the Residential Life Initiative will soon be obsolete. UM’s Residential College has been around since the 1960s and is still going strong. Applying the living/learning concept to academic disciplines other than the traditional liberal arts seems like a promising and long-overdue idea, particularly in an increasingly corporatized, bureaucratic university setting. While UM reps may tend to idealize or exaggerate the extent to which students and professors would collaborate, I tend to think the concept is a legitimate one.


       —RC Student    Mar. 15 '06 - 05:59AM    #
  36. Yeah, it’s sad to see the Frieze go, but remember that preserving any part of it might be extremely expensive. This is taxpayer money we’re talking about, here. Basically little could be done with it besides gutting the interior completely and somehow inserting the interior of the new building inside the old facade. (Not to mention hacking off the later addition on the back of the building.

    It’s on the pretty side, and this is definitely the kind of architecture that should be preserved in general, but I don’t think this is a particulary interesting or inspired piece of Beaux-Arts architecture. (That’s what it is, right?)

    I’m sure the architects would have saved some of it if they could have (they are at least saving the Carnegie library, which I didn’t even know used to be a Carnegie.) Although I think the biggest argument for preserving might be the appearance of the new building, which I don’t have high hopes for. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong on Friday when it’s revealed.

    I’m a big fan of preservation, but you can’t always preserve. Every once in a while it has to go…I guess only the new design will tell us if this is one of those times.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Mar. 15 '06 - 05:50PM    #
  37. And from today’s A2 ‘NEED TO KNOW’ section: Hall to replace Frieze discussed.

    “Community members interested in the North Quad residence hall project are invited to a meeting with University of Michigan staff on Tuesday. The combined residence hall and academic building will be built at the corner of East Washington and South State streets, Ann Arbor, at the site of the Frieze Building, which will be demolished. Jim Kosteva, U-M director of community relations; Philip Hanlon, associate provost, and Susan Gott, university planner, will speak about the plans for the site and answer questions. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Great Lakes South room at Palmer Commons, part of the U-M Life Sciences complex. The building is at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Palmer Drive.”


       —KGS    Mar. 15 '06 - 06:30PM    #
  38. See today’s AA News, A farewell to Frieze: Nostalgic tribute paid to historic U-M building ,

    ”... Even in a city that loves celebrating its history, few remembrances of Ann Arbor may come close to the tribute on Tuesday evening to the Frieze Building.

    In the courtyard of the University of Michigan-owned building, dozens of people stood by and took in a multimedia show. An array of slide and video projectors, aimed at all four sides of the courtyard, cast images of the Frieze Building throughout its history, along with some of the people who went to school and taught inside of it. ...

    The event on Tuesday was created by C. Jacqueline Wood, a U-M student. Called “Frieze Frame,’’ it was part of her senior thesis project. Wood is interested in expanded cinema, and the documentation of the art form. So friends and her thesis advisor also took photos and filmed the event and the crowd. She plans on exhibiting the documentation at a gallery show in May.

    But apart from her thesis, Wood also appreciates the building and wanted the event to be a way for the community to say “goodbye.’’ Looking over the crowd, which grew to 50 as people came and went, Wood said, “I’m so happy’’ with the support she received.

    Wood’s digital projectors played a series of films that students had created in the building. One showed a student in a gorilla outfit prowling the halls. ...

    One recording mentioned a favorite professor. Another man recalled all of the “joints’’ smoked in the building’s bathrooms.

    A teacher talked about falling down the front stairway in the middle of the night when nobody was looking. And a woman told a story of drinking too much as a freshman with her friends and spending a night in the building after discovering the doors were unlocked.

    “It just seems like a good sendoff,’’ said Mitch Sickon of Ann Arbor, who graduated from U-M in 2004 and took classes in the building. He said he wished the building would be kept in use. “I feel like it’s got a bit more character than some of the other buildings’’ on campus, he said.””


       —David Boyle (Multimedia Frieze tribute show last night)    Apr. 19 '06 - 06:45PM    #
  39. “I feel like it’s got a bit more character than some of the other buildings”

    That’s certainly one way of putting it.

    Saying goodbye to a building? Its a goddamn building – a run down, decaying, unremarkable building. Another square, unremarkable building will go up in its place until it too is allowed to fall apart. What next? A candlelight vigil when they decide to tear down the LSA Building?


       —Daniel Adams    Apr. 19 '06 - 07:16PM    #
  40. Ah ah ah. (heh)

    The edifice is nice, and maybe should have been saved; let’s not be too unsentimental here…
       —David Boyle    Apr. 19 '06 - 07:23PM    #
  41. Yesterday they removed the date stone from the building corner at State & Huron… might indicate that the Frieze is not long for this world.


       —KGS    Apr. 19 '06 - 07:43PM    #
  42. Took out the date stone?—-Ugh. Not good.

    Thx for heads-up.
       —David Boyle    Apr. 19 '06 - 08:13PM    #
  43. Demolition is scheduled for this summer. The Kleinschmidt Insurance building on Huron went down yesterday and today.


       —Dale    Apr. 19 '06 - 08:34PM    #
  44. We don’t need to be sentimental about everything right? Not about a building that is the hands down most underwhelming building on campus. The Buhr’s got more going on.


       —Daniel adams    Apr. 19 '06 - 11:28PM    #
  45. What is the Buhr like? Besides all the old books.


       —David Boyle    Apr. 19 '06 - 11:42PM    #
  46. KGS, what did you see exactly? The corner stone is still there but it looks like it was cut around. Here is my picture from last month. Here is yesterday. Here is an old newspaper clipping about the corner stone.


       —David F    Apr. 20 '06 - 12:20PM    #
  47. I thought they had removed the date stone, but evidently not (I checked on my way to work this AM). They erected scaffolding and took out the brick around it, but then replaced the brick as David’s photo shows. I wonder if they were doing an exploratory look to see how hard it will be to remove it, or if they were getting something from behind it… maybe a time capsul? it seems odd that they would cut it, and then brick it up again.


       —KGS    Apr. 20 '06 - 02:22PM    #
  48. It was a trial run. Next week they’ll replace it with a cornerstone reading “1983”, so that it’s no longer a historic building, thus quelling all dissent over its demolition.


       —TPM    Apr. 20 '06 - 02:47PM    #
  49. There was apparently a rally yesteday, too, although I learned too late; but this coming Friday the 28th, 12 noon to 1 p.m., there is an announced “Save the Frieze” rally to be held in front of Hill Auditorium. (I may repost the information later this week, too)

    Not that the rally will work; just passing on info, though.
       —David Boyle ("Save Frieze" rally 4/28 noon-1, Hill Aud.)    Apr. 24 '06 - 09:38PM    #
  50. Looking at AA News clipping from small while back, thought would mention. Is nice essay by Judy McGovern on why the “Save the Frieze” movement did some good even if it didn’t actually save the Frieze. So voila Frieze will fall but aesthetic bar has risen ,

    “Between the condition of the 1907 structure and its prime location, there was simply no “saving’’ the Frieze Building. However, the historic preservationists and graduates of the former Ann Arbor High School who tried to dissuade the University of Michigan from razing the Beaux Arts building did – in fact – help save Ann Arbor from a nondescript or perhaps even homely building. At least they helped give U-M another chance to get it right.

    ...in the course of juggling what were undoubtedly competing interests for space and function inside the 350,000-square-foot facility, the facade got short shrift.

    Indeed, it seems that the design for the front of the new building was so lackluster that as community members touted the aesthetic qualities of the Frieze Building and university officials looked at what was to have been the final design of its successor, the latter had second thoughts.

    The plans – as folks following the project know – were withdrawn a day before they were to go to the Board of Regents for approval.

    ...the new building’s State Street front?

    That’s gone back to the drawing board.

    “That location is the western gate to the university. It’s going to be the first things some visitors see and a repeated reminder of the university for those of us who go by it every day,’’ says McGowan, a two-term Democrat. “It’s an important portal and the building needs to indicate that, seriousness of purpose and the importance of the site.’’

    The save-the-Frieze activists, she says, helped “articulate the importance of the State Street facade.’’

    ...The architects who designed the new, and well received, Biomedical Science Research Building on Washtenaw Avenue, have been asked to work on the North Quad facade, McGowan says. Polshek Partnership Architects of New York, whose BSRB sports the potato chip-shaped auditorium, will work with North Quad architects Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany, N.Y., on redesigning that front.

    “Everybody on the project gets the message,’’ McGowan says.

    More often than not, U-M decides what it wants and then crashes ahead apropos its role as an 800-pound gorilla, unfettered by local building or planning processes and unfazed by the squeals of the lesser creatures around it.

    This time, the squeals registered. And though the friends of the Frieze didn’t achieve their goal, they did achieve that much. And the university and the community are better for it.”

    One is flattered that McGovern’s penultimate-and-ultimate-paragraphs “More often than not, U-M decides what it wants and then crashes ahead apropos its role as an 800-pound gorilla, unfettered by local building or planning processes and unfazed by the squeals of the lesser creatures around it. ...This time, the squeals registered. ...” reflects my own noting in my main post, “UM is often the regional bully, to be frank; perhaps community action can keep this in check, though.” Yet another insightful and respectable McGovern to add to George McGovern etc.
       —David Boyle    May. 13 '06 - 09:50PM    #