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September 27, 2006 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-27

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S M ihi . - d .ny, Spt br2 2
See you at the crossroads
Over Your Head Architecture Colur

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Wednesday Setmbr27W06 Te ihia ai W__

TOP: A man sells olives in his
shop in the Muslim Quarter of the
Old City of Jerusalem. Most of
the olives sold were grown in the
West Bank by local farmers. Many
of the olive trees are hundreds of
years old.
MIDDLE RIGHT: Israeli soldiers
move toward Palestinian and
Israeli protesters in the village of
Bil'in in the West Bank. The village
become famous for its protests of
the Separation Wall's construction.
MIDDLE LEFT: A man cheers as he
marches towards the Separation
Wall in the village of Bil'in. To
many Palestinians, the wall has
become the symbol of the Israeli
BOTTOM: A section of the
Separation Wall that divides:
Jerusalem and the village of
Abu Dis. Although it is being
constructed for security reasons,
some have criticized the
construction as an Israeli "land

sk the School of Public Health
where to find the crossroads of
campus, and you may be sur-
prised by their answer. By naming their
nearly completed addition and renova-
tion "The Crossroads and the Tower,"
the School of Public Health posits that
their own school resides on a critical
spot where major University connections
collide. Doing so, they label their own
department's location as a vital cam-
pus nexus. This self-recognition may be
called departmental egoism, if it were
not the truth.
The School of Public Health does sit
on a crucial location, though their previ-
ous fragmented buildings had disguised
this fact for years.
Even though the term "crossroads"
is meant to be dually metaphorical and
literal, their site is truly at a hinge of
spatial activity that acts simultaneously
as a boundary, a transition and a por-
tal. The School of Public Health build-
ings are a buffer between dorms and
the cemetery, an axial link connecting
Central Campus to Medical Campus
and a gateway to the Arboretum and
North Campus.
No one could see these relationships
before, but with the construction of the
new addition, these analytic site poten-
tials are now vividly realized in physi-
cality. Reacting elegantly to all of its
W m

environs, this new building is at once
practical and enigmatic.
The addition, which has taken the
place of the SPH I's east wing and tra-
verses Washington Heights, is a built
geode with a simple exterior and a
splashy interior.
Closely matching the existing brick
of the older structures, the addition's
exterior expertly melds into the existing
framework. SPH II is hard to imagine as
a solo building, especially since it was
always an oddly monolithic cube cut
with ribbon windows. Floating above the
road, the addition somewhat mimics the
existing buildings while still allowing
for aesthetic variation. Simply put, the
structure not only looks like it belongs,
it makes a case that it should have been
there all along.
Yet visual conformity doesn't cre-
ate the aforementioned links so neces-
sarily essential to this particular site.
Views are the vital links that connect
the various forces of the site into one
coherent whole.
An inverted cylinder and projecting
vestibule greets the visitors approaching
from the Hill Area while the threshold
of the arched corridor is not overpow-
ering and surprisingly pleasant. Walk-
ing from Markley, MoJo's entrance is
perfectly framed. Most importantly, the
internal courtyard that was once sealed

The winding steps of SPH 11 are one of it's signifying traits.

now spills out in a dramatic cascade
toward the hospital complex. The corri-
dor magnificently ties these two Univer-
sity elements of public health together,
especially since those approaching from
the hospital can see the building promi-
nently in the skyline. From every angle,
the new addition provides an appropri-
ate response.
Views that look out from within the
building also provide clear relation-
ships of how the building correlates
with other campus areas. Over Wash-
ington Heights, one can observe the
road below while clear views from the
mezzanine level pierce through double-
height spaces to the outside. A polygo-
nal room juts out toward Markley and
absorbs a framed vignette that reveals
the hospital complex traffic. Power-
fully, the height of the tower combined
with its perched position provides top
floor inhabitants panoramic views that
display a good portion of Ann Arbor
and stretch as far as North Campus.
Although it's important to recognize
the improved circulation and interrela-
tionships that the addition provides, my
favorite aspect of this building is the
stark contrast of its restrained and fitting

exterior and its funky interior.
Only the colored tiles on the sides of
the pilasters hint at the playful inside;
the rest is an amusing surprise. Like
crystals embedded within a geode, the
interior is colorful and serenely cha-
otic. Staircases and oversize columns
line the main atrium's periphery along
with small gathering spaces encased in
oblique, futuristic glass. Bright colors
accent these elements, and the material
palette is rich and vibrant.
Circulation is at once odd and easy
to navigate, with main spaces overflow-
ing into others in non-Cartesian paths.
Curved halls criss-cross and, unlike
straight corridors, leave mysteries as
to what lies ahead. Overall, the spaces
are simple yet peculiar, but work well
because of the open, community space
that provides clear sightlines to the adja-
cent spaces.
Through academic relationships, site
location, campus connections, visual
links and a bizarre interior, the School of
Public Health addition is most certainly
a crossroads on many levels. All they
have to do now is play Bone Thugz n'
Harmony in the elevators, and the Cross-
roads will be truly complete.


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SPH 11 overlooks the hospital and hill area.

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