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September 13, 2006 - Image 16

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North Quad Remix
It's Over Your Head Architecture Column

Wednesday. September 13, 2006 -- ThE Michgan Daily 9B

niversity President Mary
Sue Coleman and the other
administrators were right
to delay the North Quad project,
choosing to perfect its architecture
rather than accepting a mediocre
design. The project's completion
may be pushed back a year, but the
permanence and importance of this
building will affect generations of
students, faculty and Ann Arborites
for decades to come. This structure is
to be the gateway to Central Campus
from the north, yet the recent March
proposal from architecture firm Ein-
horn, Yaffee, Prescott showed alack-
luster building, both piecemeal and
uninviting. Most importantly, the
proposed renderings did not express
an externally unified charisma to
harbor the building's innovative inte-
In July, the University hired Rob-
ert A.M. Stern Architects to redesign
North Quad while keeping Einhorn,
Yaffee, Prescott on to retain the
integrity of the interior program-
ming. With this decision, the Uni-
versity is poised to get more of, if
not exactly, what they want for North
Quad. Time and time again, Robert
A.M. Stern Architects have proven
that they are masters at adapting to
context while providing traditional,
distinguished architecture.
Again, University officials have
done the right thing. Problem solved

... Yet Monday, as people observed
the five-year anniversary of Sept. 11,
I too reflected on the impact of those
events. What have we learned since
then? Well, in the five years since
that fateful day, the architectural
community has certainly learned a
lot. There have been innumerable
difficulties plaguing the rebuilding
of Ground Zero, and one message is
resoundingly clear: When there is a
large project with many stakeholders
and overwhelming public interest,
the problem is never really solved.
Like the rebuilding of Ground
Zero, North Quad has to deal with
extremely high expectations, public
scrutiny, budgetary constraints and
extensive redesign.
First, let us examine why North
Quad's redesign is seemingly the.
ideal solution. Still in a design devel-
opment phase, the new North Quad
can be sent back to the drawing
board without major consequences.
The project can be reexamined and
redesigned by Robert A.M. Stern
Architects as a whole project not
peppered with substitutions or com-
Robert A.M. Stern Architects
pride themselves on not believing
"that any one style is appropriate to
every building and every place." The
firm is well versed in a diverse array
of styles, from quasi-traditional to
contemporary, and makes absolutely

six separate universities - Duke,
University of North Carolina,
Brown, University of Texas,
Columbia University and the
University of Michigan. "We've
reached a tipping point as an orga-
nization," Spence says.
Spence mostly provides guid-
ance now, helping make connec-
tions and handling legal concerns.
"It's very much a working, partner
relationship," she says. "Self-fund-
raising is an important part."
SoW worked its way into the
University in the summer of
2003, when a group of five coor-
dinated with five students from
Texas to travel to Uganda. Since
then they have traveled to South
Africa, Cambodia and - most
recently - India. In keeping with
the program's tradition, the Uni-
versity's division is extremely
self-directed. Students control
everything from the topic, to
the fundraising, to the actual
In January, they decided as a
group that they would study micro
financing - the practice of distrib-
uting small loans to poor entrepre-
neurs - in India. From there, they
raised the $7,000 in funding from
a variety of campus groups, as
well as family and friends. They
began tapping SoW's connections
within the Clinton Global Initia-
tive (CGI).
Eventually they encountered
the Segal Foundation, a nonprofit
working out of the Mewat region.
Both groups had made commit-
ments to CGI, and were able to fill
them by working together.
Mewat is an expansive area,
located in northwest India, and is,
as one student put it, "in the dump-
ster in every way possible."
The students stayed in Gurga-
on - an outsourcing hub that has
evolved from backwater town to
a city of vast towers and expan-
sive slums.
They observed the Segal
Foundation at work, document-
ing humanitarian work in every-
thing from water conservation
and management to women's
education. Though they origi-
nally started in water, the foun-
dation adopted the entire region
after seeing the breadth of issues
affecting them.
The students were almost
immediately struck by the region's
poverty. In one city marketplace,
child beggars swarmed the group.
Unable to provide help for them,
they were forced to ignore them.
"It was very frustrating, because
you couldn't help them at all," said
LSA junior Allison Stewart. "You
had to ignore it."
The sad necessity of such dis-
parity, said one student, is that
"you had to act like you're that

fully funded grants per year.
"Basically, our project propos-
al was to study the history of
genocide in Cambodia," Nolan-
Abrahamian says. "We were
particularly interested in how
Cambodia had, or hadn't, recon-
ciled with its past."
When the first request was
successful, the pair turned to the
Ginsberg Center, the International
Institute, the LSA Dean's Office
and the Center for International
and Comparative Studies. The
small grant snowballed, and even-
tually the two ended up with over
$7,000 - enough to cover all of
their expenses.
Go abroad, young man
Undergraduate travel is a boon
for the entire University com-
munity. For students, it can be a
cathartic and enriching moment in
their development, sparking intel-
lectual curiosity and new perspec-
tives. For employers, it's a signal
of maturity, openness and the abil-
ity to adapt. For the University, it
ensures that graduates are the kind
of open-minded, freethinking
people that this University should
be turning out.
The world is vast and you are
And now, you have no excuse.
No money spent, no credits to
make up. And the year is still
young. Get out there. Enjoy it.
You'll be glad you did.

An elderly man sits in a crowded room in Cambodia.

A view of the front side of the Frieze Building.

certain that the architecture they
provide fits in with its surroundings.
Robert A.M. Stern himself is a laud-
ed architect with an accomplished
career. Also a writer and academic,
Stern has published many books and
is the dean of the Yale University
School of Architecture. Although
once associated with the Post-mod-
ern movement, his architecture has
matured to reflect the past, a notion
he calls "modern traditionalist."
One example of his work is right
here on campus. His firm designed
the almost-completed Weill Hall for
the Gerald R. Ford School of Pub-
lic Policy at the corner of State and
Hill streets. Deemed a success, the
Ford School building matches the
aesthetic prestige of the Law Quad
and stands as a symbolic pillar and
southern gateway to Central Cam-
pus. In addition, the firm has fruit-
fully completed a grand Southwest
Quadrangle at Georgetown Univer-
sity while working with none other
than Einhorn, Yaffee, Prescott.
Stern's firm is a seemingly perfect
fit to revamp the North Quad design,
but I would warn the University that
the problem is not completely solved
until North Quad is complete. Let us
remember the continued debacle sur-
rounding the rebuilding of Ground
Our country's purity, clarity and

unity that immediately ensued dur-
ing the aftermath of Sept. 11 has
since vaporized, just as the intelli-
gibility of the Ground Zero design
has long ago been distorted beyond
recognition. Soon after the catastro-
phe, an international design compe-
tition was held for the rebuilding of
Ground Zero. Daniel Libeskind won
the competition with his Freedom
Tower, and the problem was appar-
ently solved.
Five years later, the site's future
is still uncertain and its financing
questionable. Libeskind, tired of his
Freedom Tower being manipulated,
pulled his name from the project.
And for all the world-renowned
architects working on the project
- Richard Rogers, Norman Foster,
David Childs, Santiago Calatrava
and Frank Gehry to name just a
few - nothing has been built. There
have been verbal attacks, pointed
fingers, design squabbles and even
lawsuits. The project has been pub-
licized, politicized and commercial-
ized. Many have deemed the project
a failure, both architecturally and
Ground Zero's problem is that
the project has too many voices, and
most of them contradict each other.
North Quad's redesign is not by any
means an indicator that the project
will be a downward spiral of crises

like Ground Zero, but in order to
avoid that fate, Robert A.M. Stern
Architects needs to unify the design
amid many bickering voices.
University officials want a
collegiate and distinctive build-
ing that symbolizes a University
entrance and has a "wow" factor,
but these notions are contradic-
tory. Advocates for preserving
the Frieze Building are expect-
ing a redesign that favors their
opinions after disappointment
that scheduled public forums
had been postponed. Of course
there are the community activists
who picketed last spring and still
want to restore the Frieze, while
the University has made it clear
that it will only save the Carnegie
Library. Bloggers have speculated
about hiring big name architects,
and last year the MSA rallied to
make the building sustainable and
LEED certified. And now there is
the delay, redesign and addition
of a new lead design team.
North Quad is on a good track
backed by rational thinking, a
supportive University and a good
design team. Needless to say,
though, the pressure is mounting,
and recent history teaches us that
good intentions don't always make
good buildings. Ofcourse, that also
means that many times they do.

much above them."
The Segal Foundation provided
housing, as well as subjects for the
interviews, minor transportation
and translation services.
The group of students, led by
LSA senior Aderemi Abioye,
often refer to the program jokingly
as "The Real World: India."
"Every time, it comes up," says
LSA senior and two-time SoW
participant Carla Thomas.
It's not an unfair comparison.
The seven SoW members were
about as diverse as University
groups come. Majors ranged from
Latin American and Caribbean
studies to Mechanical Engineer-
"Things come up when you go
out of the country with seven indi-
viduals and no one is alike at all,"
says Abioye.
The tension of opposites
is often productive, however.
And travel certainly brings out
people's opposites. "(Diversity)
brings something new to the
group, which is great," Thomas
says, "You get different connec-
tions, a lot of creative energy, but
you get clashes too. It's a balance
you have to find.
The road less less traveled
For those who can't
stand the traffic on even the most
obscure roads, the University
offers plenty of opportunities to
pave your own. For instance, the
International Institute Individual
Fellowship program offers up to
$2,000 to "support internships,
research projects or preliminary
dissertation research abroad" for
undergraduate University stu-

The International Institute is
also associated with the presti-
gious Fulbright award programs,
which have funded undergradu-
ate and graduate research abroad
since 1948.
The University will soon unveil
the Wallenberg Scholarship. The
grant is named for University grad-
uate and Holocaust savior Raoul
Wallenberg - you may recognize
him as the subject of the statue
outside Rackham auditorium.
In keeping with Wallenberg's
legacy, the scholarship will fund
a year of humanitarian work
abroad. This is largely in response
to the overwhelming proportion
of grants - such as the Fulbright
- that focus on academic work.
The details will be announced on
Oct. 5, as part of the annual Wal-
lenberg lecture.
The Office of Academic Mul-
ticultural Initiatives (OAMI) is
another underused source of trav-
el funding. Through the Student
Academic Multicultural Initiatives
(SAMI), OAMI grants awards of
between $500 to $1500 to promote
"involvement in academic multi-
cultural activities:" Typically, this
means travel.
The Undergraduate Research
and Opportunity Program (UROP)
encourages students to pursue indi-
vidual research projects. Though
it is not widely advertised, funding
for these projects can often extend
to travel and field sites.
Individual professors can also
guide students to opportunities.
Particularly in fields like Geology
and Archaeology, research extends
to foreign field sites. In some
cases, students may be provided
the opportunity to accompany and
contribute to this research.

While few of these grants
breach a couple thousand dol-
lars, the combination of a few
is enough to provide at least a
month or two of travel. Last sum-
mer, LSA juniors Lara Finkbeiner
and Emma Nolan-Abrahamian
- a Michigan Daily photographer
- did just that.
Their work started with a
simple proposal to the Center
for Southeast Asian Studies - a
group that typically offers four

The Frieze Building sits on the site of the future North Quad.

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