Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

North Quad preliminary drawings out

16. March 2006 • Dale Winling
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The University of Michigan has released preliminary drawings of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott’s design for the new residential/retail/instructional/administrative building on the site of the current Frieze Building. The Michigan Daily runs the images in a cover story on the project.

Sources indicate that preliminary plans are also forthcoming. (Sources also indicate that the retail will not be accessible from the exterior of the building.) The Regents of the University of Michigan will get a briefing at their meeting this Friday. The action recommended is to approve the $137,000,000 project budget and move ahead with bids and contracts. The Frieze will be demolished and the Carnegie Library facade will be incorporated into the new building.

UPDATE: The Michigan Daily reports that the item has been pulled from the Regents’ agenda due to design and cost issues by university CFO Timothy Slottow.



  1. Well it isn’t exactly an architectural masterpiece, is it? I was expecting to be underwhelmed by the “architecture” and I am. Looks like a cross between the hospital and South Quad. All I can think of from this picture is the poor little Carnagie Library shrugging its shoulders and saying “get this thing off of me!”

    This is the part that makes me laugh though: high-tech group-study areas, including video walls. The walls will have a video camera and a large screen, enabling live conversation with people around the world. Funny because SI has been trying to get those video walls into one of their buildings for at least four years now. Looks like they finally suckered someone into it. Yet another expensive tech experiment that will have no continued funding and will therefore be obsolete the minute the building opens (can anyone say “Media Union”). Make it flexible space with enormous conduit, but other than that, don’t waste money planning for tomorrow’s high-tech options today.

    Also, I know there are many people who will disagree with me on this one, but building residences of any sort in this climate with air-conditioning rather than efficient uses of cross-ventilation and passive solar considerations (retractable awnings are great) is a poor use of money and natural resources. As far as I can tell, this building will have no “green” features whatsoever. This is a shame since so much work was done in Dana to see what did and did not work and we could use that information. It would be great to make this building forward-thinking in many aspects, not just questionable technology, a stir-fry station, and air-conditioning for a temperate climate.


       —Juliew    Mar. 16 '06 - 10:08PM    #
  2. Eh, not great, not terrible—it’s about as good as I hoped for, really. I have to say it’s more attractive thatn SQ at least, not to mention the hospital. And the languages building going up across the street. It’ll be interesting to see if the U. is truly open to modifying the plans based on input from the community!


       —Young Urban Amateur    Mar. 16 '06 - 10:19PM    #
  3. Isn’t pretty much every academic building air-conditioned?


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 16 '06 - 10:30PM    #
  4. Classroom and office buildings are mostly air-conditioned, residences have not been until this building (and the update of Mosher-Jordan).


       —Juliew    Mar. 16 '06 - 10:33PM    #
  5. Why couldn’t they have followed the example of the new Ford School? Now that’s a new building that actually deserves respect, and serves as a real gateway. With such a prominent location, this will be a real missed opportunity if they settle for a run-of-the-mill glass cube (see UMMA). (I love how the UM is creeping up on the OFW with bland glass boxes from all sides… it’s like they want to piss ‘em off).


       —Brandon    Mar. 17 '06 - 12:22AM    #
  6. I think it looks great. I love the glass and modern look. I hope they bring in some more good fast food on the main floor. I hope this will be the start of more buildings like this and begin to make our city look like a more modern and 21st century city.


       —Scott    Mar. 17 '06 - 01:15AM    #
  7. I prefer glass to the ubiquitous brownish brick all over North Campus.

    Quite honestly, compared to the last dorm built (Bursley)... there’s no where to go but up.

    ... it does look very hospital-esque, though. So much for blending into downtown & the Library facade. “21st century city” isn’t really defined by glass and video walls – maybe by crazy Gehry buildings, but not video walls.

    On the plus side, it looks like the new undergrads will have to choose between the Residential College, UROP, and “Sophomore Year Experience”. Oh excitement! Oh ambiguity!


       —Jen    Mar. 17 '06 - 02:15AM    #
  8. I like it. Well, I like a lot better than what’s there now. This town has some pretty unattractive spaces, and this would help one of them.

    But where’s the greenbelt?


       —JD    Mar. 17 '06 - 03:02AM    #
  9. Plus, there is no on-site parking. The students will have no choice except to park “elsewhere”, which means the surrounding residential neighborhood.

    The U takes the same attitude toward parking as the Calthorpe Report does when it recommends relieving developers of their duty to pay for or provide parking: “Not our problem.”


       —David Cahill    Mar. 17 '06 - 02:37PM    #
  10. They really should have gone with that multi-level parking structure that the Old Fourth Ward was so enthusiastic about.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 17 '06 - 03:10PM    #
  11. I don’t understand the complaints about parking—there’s a structure one block south of it. It’s not like these students are going to appear out of nowhere—they’re going to come from overcrowded residence halls elsewhere. So there won’t be more cars on the streets—it’ll just mean some shuffling of spots. If there will be a bigger demand in this area now, it means that the excess will slowly spill its way back into whatever spots the new residents gave up around their old dorms.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Mar. 17 '06 - 04:00PM    #
  12. Just ran across this so I thought that I’d share.
    From www.mlive.com/aanews

    Design for new U-M dorm hits snag
    Ambitious plans for North Quad, the University of Michigan’s combined residence hall and academic building, hit a snag Thursday when university officials abruptly sent back the schematic design to the architects to be revised.
    Architects from Einhorn Yaffee Prescott completed the final design on Wednesday and were to present it to the U-M Board of Regents for approval today. But by Thursday evening, top U-M officials had received concerns prompting them to have second thoughts and decide against asking the regents to vote on the design.
    “Based on consultation with the president (Mary Sue Coleman) and other project stakeholders, I have decided that we need to do more work on the North Quad schematic design before bringing it to the regents for approval,” Timothy Slottow, U-M’s chief financial officer, said in a statement released Thursday evening. ~AA News


       —Matt    Mar. 17 '06 - 04:12PM    #
  13. Hmmm, sounds like somebody at the ‘U’ is trying my approach. Reject the first scheme, get a better one the second time.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 17 '06 - 04:17PM    #
  14. Most of the dorms don’t have any parking to speak of – Bursley/Baits have the most, at (looking up…) about 500 spaces for about 2000 residents, on an application/lottery basis. Most dorms have none at all.

    When I lived in the dorms, there were only a very few people on my floor who had cars in A2. Many people had cars at their parents’ houses, but didn’t bring them until A2 until they moved off campus, as the dorms did a better job of allowing them to meet their needs without a car. People would take AATA on their infrequent trips to Meijer, or carpool with the few people who did have cars nearby.

    But, hey, maybe David Cahill is right. Maybe UM should eminent domain up the old First Unitarian church or whatever it is on that corner and a few historic houses around it, raze them all, and build a parking structure for North Quad. Would that be a better solution? Or would we prefer that UM continue to discourage dorm residents from bringing cars to campus and encourage them to use non-car transportation methods as much as possible instead?

    I’ll take the latter, thanks.


       —TPM    Mar. 17 '06 - 04:48PM    #
  15. Parking in the OFW is already near impossible at most hours, so I don’t know what they’re worried about. If there’s no more capacity, how can the parking situation get worse over there?


       —Brandon    Mar. 17 '06 - 05:45PM    #
  16. Interesting about the design snag. I would hope they can come up with something better. When I was at the University of Minnesota for a conference this fall, I noticed their biomedical building, Hasselmo Hall. I loved it because it was obviously a new, very modern building, but it still complimented and worked with the other buildings on campus (the picture doesn’t do it justice). Hasselmo Hall isn’t a dorm, but this is the kind of building I had hoped to see at the Frieze site, rather than the one proposed.

    As for art museums, and speaking of “crazy Gehry buildings,” the University of Minnesota art museum has ours beat too.


       —Juliew    Mar. 17 '06 - 06:00PM    #
  17. Austin Dingwall, a fellow MUP student, noted the “meh” quality of the design and enthused about the new MIT dorm and MIT’s Stata Center by Gehry.

    I agree that these are interesting buildings, but not that such impetus should guide EYP. The Stata Center, while now a signature building, reads as unreal. I have not yet been able to look at it without thinking that I may have been looking at a model or rendering, not a real building. (gmap building under construction) Simmons Hall at MIT, meanwhile, by Stephen Holl, doesn’t achieve the ‘porosity’ that he originally envisioned (it was supposed to make/enhance a connection from campus to the rest of Cambridge, but I don’t think it’s successful in that regard. (gmap image)

    I think this building, after its academic/residential responsibilities, first has to work for its location on State Street. That means it has to make a better acknowledgement of the surrounding historic architecture, though that certainly doesn’t preclude an architecturally original statment. And I would love to see something like the Fishbowl or the Mason Hall lobby visible from the sidewalk—how about we not make the building do the work of saying “academic,” but rather let the activities inside visible on the outside?


       —Dale    Mar. 17 '06 - 08:41PM    #
  18. Also, let me say Stephen Holl should be punched in the face for working too hard in service of a metaphor, as exhibited in this photo.

    In trying to convey “porosity” so hard, he has made this cantilevered overhang useless for anyone who is smoking outside, waiting to make a delivery, or waiting for a friend in the rain or snow.


       —Dale    Mar. 17 '06 - 08:52PM    #
  19. I love Simmons Hall, although I’ve never been inside. If it makes it harder for smokers, that’s fine.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 17 '06 - 09:09PM    #
  20. Yes, but you love everything about MIT.


       —Dale    Mar. 17 '06 - 09:21PM    #
  21. I would prefer a smaller dorm with underground parking.

    I wonder why the design was pulled from the agenda. Maybe they left out the stairwells. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Mar. 17 '06 - 09:22PM    #
  22. Well, that’s true. I even have a fondness for the dorm I lived in that was basically two non-contiguous buildings that each consisted of a single long corridor.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 17 '06 - 09:25PM    #
  23. Is this thing gonna have ground-floor retail?


       —Brandon    Mar. 17 '06 - 10:02PM    #
  24. It should have ground-floor retail. I hope they bring in Taco Bell, and KFC.


       —Scott    Mar. 17 '06 - 10:46PM    #
  25. According to someone I talked to who saw the plans, there was a cafe on the ground floor, but you had to go into the building and down a hall to get into it—ie it was lame.


       —Dale    Mar. 17 '06 - 11:11PM    #
  26. Ground floor retail (particularly along State Street, accessible directly off the sidewalk) would make up for much.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 17 '06 - 11:16PM    #
  27. What I think would be particularly awesome is two areas on the ground floor that are visually engaging (like BW-3 in Corner House), one of retail and one of academic/social space. Really mixed use.


       —Dale    Mar. 17 '06 - 11:32PM    #
  28. Not having ground floor retail in a building that size at that location = asinine. Plus, the U could make some extra dough that way.


       —Brandon    Mar. 18 '06 - 02:22AM    #
  29. “Hmmm, sounds like somebody at the ‘U’ is trying my approach. Reject the first scheme, get a better one the second time.”

    EYP is a big international firm famous in the world of architecture for hmmm …. bland boxes; like this http://www.eypae.com/default.asp?eyp=flash&pid=24&prid=146&imid=3. The University hired safe corporate hacks and got just what they should have known they were going to get; not modern enough, not urban enough, not thoughtful enough, and not green enough. EYP is on the cutting edge of nothing. So let’s beat them eh, on our dime, to get them where they have never been. That’s effective.

    “Also, let me say Stephen Holl should be punched in the face for working too hard in service of a metaphor, as exhibited in this photo. In trying to convey “porosity” so hard, he has made this cantilevered overhang useless for anyone who is smoking outside, waiting to make a delivery, or waiting for a friend in the rain or snow.”

    If those kids at MIT don’t notice that part of the design that is under the building and dry then I suggest MIT re-evaluate their legacy program.


       —cb    Mar. 19 '06 - 12:53PM    #
  30. Believe me, if I had any voice in the process, a different architectural firm would have been selected. But I doubt that firing them at this point is a realistic possibility.

    Given these constraints, rejecting a bad design is probably the best available option. As I wrote before, architects are smart folks. I’m confident that they can and will do better, even if they have to stretch themselves to do it.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 19 '06 - 07:02PM    #
  31. I didn’t realize they did the Mason/Haven Hall renovation. I like how that turned out. The comment on their website about that redo is interesting: “Before renovation, Mason and Haven Halls were very much buildings from the 1950s. Their appearance was unsympathetic to their Beaux Arts neighbors. An extensive renovation and expansion of the buildings created an entirely new image for the front façade” So hey, why not follow their own advice for the Frieze site and at least make it sympathetic to the buildings around it?


       —Juliew    Mar. 19 '06 - 07:23PM    #
  32. Note: the community meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) regarding the North Quad project has been canceled since the schematic designs were pulled and now are up for revision.


       —Juliew    Mar. 21 '06 - 03:19AM    #
  33. it was explained to me today that the north quad design was scrapped because the regents want a marquee designer.


       —peter honeyman    Mar. 22 '06 - 04:20AM    #
  34. Starchitecture is such a mistake.


       —Dale    Mar. 22 '06 - 04:33AM    #
  35. agreed—sharp corners and sudden drop-offs have no place in any building i am fated to haunt. that would be, like, ow.


       —peter honeyman    Mar. 22 '06 - 06:00AM    #
  36. I think the Michigan Theatre has a very nice marquee.


       —David Cahill    Mar. 22 '06 - 02:33PM    #
  37. David – are you suggesting that the Michigan Theater be gutted and turned into a dorm along with the Frieze?

    Or do I just not understand how that’s relevant?


       —TPM    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:02PM    #
  38. Aww, come on. I love Gehry buildings! But it is true that what I think is a cool design for an art museum is far different from what I would want to live in. A great architect can build great buildings, but I agree with Dale that it doesn’t necessarily or even often follow. Something between a Gehry and Cell Block 9 would be preferable. I had hoped they pulled the North Quad plan in order to get better design. Kind of disappointing to think it was done just to get a “better” designer.


       —Juliew    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:15PM    #
  39. I am concerned that the Regents should agree that the new dorm should have LEED certification – or at least have features that are green. Now that the design has been rejected, there is time to incorporate sustainable design. What do you all think?


       —Leah    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:23PM    #
  40. And the administration scratches their heads wondering what fucked-up value system inculcated their undergraduates with the shallow notion that they required a celebrity commencement speaker.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:26PM    #
  41. ...my comment was meant as a follow up to Julie, but Leah snuck in ahead of me. I’m all about Sedum on rooftops and stuff.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:29PM    #
  42. I, too, am very disappointed to hear that the Regents are after a Big Name Architect rather than looking for a better design. This points to a really awful result that justifies my earlier deep pessimism.

    No Big Name Architect is ever going to consider ground floor retail or a green roof to sully the sterile purity of his obnoxious, context-defying monument.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 22 '06 - 03:54PM    #
  43. Do you think there’s a big donation waiting in the wings that won’t attach itself to a “plain” building?


       —John Q.    Mar. 22 '06 - 06:05PM    #
  44. Going after a big name architect also means that the design will be re-done from scratch, doesn’t it? After all, a big name architect would not condescend to merely modify a rejected design.

    How much delay can we expect?


       —David Cahill    Mar. 22 '06 - 06:58PM    #
  45. A delay totally inconsequential in comparison to the length of time the building will stand. I don’t support chasing starchitects; I do support pursuing good design.

    It was about 14 months, if I remember correctly, from the decision to hire an architect (EYP was already identified) last year until now.


       —Dale    Mar. 22 '06 - 08:17PM    #
  46. How certain are we that the folks whose design was rejected have been ‘fired’? Peter, based on the explanation you got and who you got it from, how certain would you say this is? (Perhaps there’s already been some media report that I’ve missed … if so, sorry)

    And I’m curious as to how the mechanics of the break up works? Does someone make an awkward phone call? Send an awkward email?

    For example, Larry, in the experiences you cited of rejecting a design and insisting on a better one, did it ever escalate to the point of, “It’s not your design, it’s our parcel. You don’t want ancillary buildings. I do. The people who mentored you never liked me anyway. What chance would we have of building something that would last?”


       —HD    Mar. 22 '06 - 09:16PM    #
  47. I’m sure it was/would be a contractually agreed upon point (one among many) that the university could end the deal with a check for services and a thank you.


       —Dale    Mar. 22 '06 - 09:29PM    #
  48. HD, I have never had an architect situation deteriorate to that point.

    Obviously if the architect were a Great Big Name who disdains any input from or interaction with the client over what the building will look like, then we would have had a problem.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Mar. 22 '06 - 11:20PM    #
  49. Greetings from Detroit. Apparently Wayne State University understands urbanism better than UM (despite an arguably less-”urban”-feeling campus neighborhood in some ways). All new undergraduate and graduate housing constructed in the past few years features ground-floor retail (food, bookstores, cafes, and even a sports bar). Why UM doesn’t see this as completely sensible for State Street is beyond me.


       —Brandon    Apr. 9 '06 - 12:31AM    #
  50. According to the Michigan Daily, North Quad will be delayed for at least a year pending design of a new exterior. Seems that the comments on the design were pretty universally negative. The demolition of the Frieze will continue as planned this summer, although students won’t be moving into the new building until at least Fall of 2010 (assuming no further setbacks). Looks like it will be the construction zone at the corner of Huron and State for the foreseeable future.


       —Juliew    Apr. 10 '06 - 05:53PM    #