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March 09, 2006 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-09

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ABOVE: Students walk the four-story spiral staircase at the new Computer Science
building. RIGHT: North Campus houses the schools of Art and Design, Architecture and
Urban Planning, Engineering and Music. BOTTOM: The botanical hallway of the EECS

n 1950, the Board of Regents purchased a few hundred acres of
land located north of the Huron River near the Medical Campus.
The land, full of hickory and oak trees, was primarily used for
farming. Located in the Huron River Valley, Native American tribes
often crossed through in their travels. There was no immediate use
for the land; the University just wanted it in case they were look-
ing to expand. After all, once World War II ended, government
money was constantly pumped into new engineering research and a
growing student body was overflowing on Central Campus. Eventually,
the demand for more research facilities grew too large, married stu-
dents needed a place to live, and enrollment had increased to the point
that the University began planning to possibly accommodate more
than 100,000 students. The land was put to use, and North Campus

oratory in 1951, then the Phoenix
Laboratory in 1955, and so on.
Even though the buildings
have been there for more than
50 years, North Campus has not
always been a haven for "engin-
erds" - the slang term used to
describe engineering students.
In fact, the College of Engineer-
ing didn't even complete the
move from Central"Campus until
1986. The move ended up happen-
ing slightly ahead of schedule,
according to James Duderstadt,
former University president and
Engineering dean. In his book,
"On the Move: A Personal His-
tory of Michigan Engineering,"
Duderstadt tells the story of going
for a run on Christmas morning in
1981 and learning that the econom-
ics building had been burned to the
ground by an arsonist. The econom-
ics department had to relocate, and
since the College of Engineering
was planning on moving anyway,
the problem was solved. When the
college made its move, it joined the
School of Music - which, in 19644,
was the first school to travel north,
settling into a building designed by
Saarinen himself - and the School of
Architecture and Art.
When considering different aspects
of constructing new buildings on
North Campus, many factors are taken
into consideration. According to Uni-
versity planner Sue Gott, every project
is taken on a case-by-case basis.
"We look at the nature of any project
and understand what the siting require-
ments for any project are," she said.
Those requirements include plac-
ing units in close proximity to pro-
mote more interaction between faculty
and students, matching up needed sizes
to available sites and maximizing effi-
ciency with regards to entry points and
"Every project may have some unique

principles that respond to either the particular site
... or the program and how the program needs to be
reflected,"Gott says.
The 1984 North Campus Planning Study, the
report suggested that North Campus buildings gen-
erally be low-profile and fit in with the east-west
grid of the original Saarinen plan. Buildings should
also try to mesh with the existing land and vegeta-
tion, whose slopes and contours are a result of gla-
ciers moving through the Huron River Valley area
millions of years ago.
"The challenge is to build on current developable
sites so we protect the important natural features,"
Gott says.
North Campus Redux Project
n 2002, Doug Kelbaugh, Taubman College
of Architecture and Urban Planning dean,
along with the other deans on North Cam-
pus, wanted to conduct another study regard-
ing North Campus. This, of course, had been
done before, but this time, students would be
more prominently involved.
"I think the North Campus deans were frustrated
that the University had not developed a compre-
hensive plan for North Campus in many years,"
Kelbaugh says, sitting in his office in the Art and
Architecture Building, across the street from Pier-
pont Commons. Wearing a dark blue shirt, gray suit
and reading glasses, Kelbaugh sits across from a
wall where three large campus maps - which he
references frequently - dominate the room.
After Kelbaugh proposed the plan, then-interim
University President B. Joseph White agreed to
fund it, earmarking about $40,000 for the study. In
the summer months of 2002, the deans met with
University officials and the development firm
Venturi Scott Brown and Associates. It was about
this same time that Kelbaugh asked the Masters of
Urban Design Studio to work with students - who
"have a fresh vision" as Kelbaugh says - to pro-
pose a few alternative plans for the campus.
Kit Krankel-McCullough, a lecturer in urban
design, taught the seven-week spring course that
worked on this project. Three teams of students
each created their own vision of what they felt
North Campus should be. As the moderator, Kran-
kel-McCullough helped students organize the prob-


' .

More than 50 years later, North Campus, which has grown
to include more than 800 acres of land, is still trying to shake
the stigma of being the home to everything that doesn't fit on
Central Campus. North Campus has a Diag, a bell tower and
a recreation building, but they are perceived as secondary to
their Central Campus counterparts. The Northwood apart-
ments serve as dorms when Central Campus runs out of
space. The best concert venues and restaurants require
at least a 10-minute bus ride, and most sporting events
are two campuses away. The twisting roads are more
tailored for automobiles than pedestrians, creating
an isolated, spread-out feel.
Still, the land has a natural beauty and a unique
atmosphere. Students who live on North Cam-
pus enjoy the tranquility of the area and the
open spaces that are its trademark. Where
some see nothing, others enjoy the natu-
rally sloping landscape.
"You don't have the same hustle and
bustle as on Central," said Michael
Swanigan, director of Pierpont Com-

mons, the North Campus equivalent to the
Michigan Union or Michigan League. "The
ambiance is a lot more relaxing - a lot more
The University - as.it does with Central and
South Campus - has constantly evaluated the
land and offered solutions for its future. Now,
the wheels are in motion to make North Cam-
pus the destination spot that University mem-
bers believe it can be.
The history
ince there were no original
intended uses for the land, the
University needed a plan. It
turned to Eero Saarinen, an
esteemed Finnish architect. In
a piece-by-piece fashion, the
land began to develop. First
came the Mortimer Cooley Electronics Lab-


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