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November 07, 2007 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-11-07

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An
EDUCATED GUESS
about the future of campus architecture

nated culture as"an alternate union
for women, or the rumor that says the
quirky Fletcher Administration Build-
ing was built as a 1960s anti-riot struc-
ture. Just as Neo-Gothic was the style
when the Law Quad was built and 45-
degree angles were fashionable when
the Duderstadt Center was designed,
today's campus buildings will eventu-
ally become cultural relics. Therefore,
to predict what the next 10 years of
Michigan architecture will hold, it's
important to investigate the trends
now
In many ways, new construction is
shaped by what's popular, not just in
the field of architecture but in urban
planning as a whole, and consequently,
by prevailing social movements. Con-
temporary architecture is no longer
defined by style as much as it is by pro-
cess. Though it's debatable, many claim
that the post-modernist style was dead
after 1994 and that nothing substan-
tial is risen to take its place. Take the
neo-traditional Weill Hall, the sculp-
tural Biomedical Research Building
and the airy and linear Museum of
Art expansion - aesthetically, they're
radically different, but in a way, they
capture the spirit of the times. With no
predominant architectural style, the
less artsy, more social mantras of using
technology, maintaining sustainability
and fostering globalism have become
the guiding forces in most new con-
struction.
Infusing technology into architec-
ture no longer just means having more
Ethernet outlets or automated drop-
down projection screens. Interactive
media and its corresponding connec-
tive tissue of complex communication
technology are transforming the way
space is perceived, especially on a uni-
versity campus. As new technology
further imbeds itself into our culture,
campus architecture will respond.
Gott said the Residential Life Initia-
tive has played a major role in defining
the importance of technology in aiding
social interaction.
"The social needs of our students
combine with the extraordinary
advances in technology have a tremen-
dous role in shaping facility needs. But
there are other contributing factors,
too," she said. "We also see interdisci-
plinary opportunities for new collabo-
rations influencing faculty and student
requirements for space as another
example of a dynamic that influences
siting and planning of current pro-

Ten years ago, then-Uni-
versity President Lee
Bollinger encouraged
campus architects to
think ahead. Far ahead.
"We need to take a
long view," he said in a 1998 press
release. "To consider what our Uni-
versity Campus might be like, what
its character should be, one hundred
years from now."
Bollinger chartered the acclaimed
architecture and planning firm Ventu-
ri, Scott Brown and Associates to con-
ceive a fresh campus master plan that
would unite the University's buildings
into a recognizable whole. Michigan's
physical campus was to herald a new
vision.
Today, that new vision has gotten
old. So how will campus be remem-
bered? And more important, what will
the class of 2027 see when they look
around it?
Amid the ebb and flow of social
tides, throughout the ups and downs
of the economy and within the hearts
and minds of generations, one thing
remains: the buildings. So when archi-
tects and planners gaze into their crys-

When you return from campus 20 years
from now, what will you see?
By Austin Dingwall I Daily Staff Writer

ter how well the team does, they will
always be part of the largest crowd
in America watching football on that
particular Saturday. Recent criticism
of the stadium's upcoming renovation
is most likely fueled by nostalgia and
pride rather than architectural woes.
So takea moment to anticipate what
the next decades will hold in store for
Michigan's campus. Large projects
like North Quad will become fresh pil-
lars for Michigan's campus, yet most
change will occur on a smaller scale.
Gott pictures a campus shaped by
the interstitial space between build-
ings and the . overall campus fabric.
She stresses the need for informal
areas like walkways, plazas and green
space. It's these places, she says, that
"contribute to the vitality, energy and
invigorating social realm of campus
that typically contribute to some of
the most memorable experiences for
students." While charging toward the
future, though, it's important to con-
currently re-examine the present and
engage the past.
In the 10 years prior to Bollinger's
late-90s address, campus buildings
mirrored growth throughout most of

the country. During the 80s, America
glamorized indoor shopping malls and
thrived off cheap gas. Suburban sprawl
was not yet a buzzword, and commu-
nities continued to radiate outward
where land was cheap and untainted
by historical reverence.
"The last ten years have witnessed
an unprecedented period of construc-
tion," Bollinger wrote in 1997, regard-
ing Michigan's own growing campus.
"We are, however, at risk of centrifugal
sprawl, of diluting our essential coher-
ence and sense of community."
His comments were remarkably pre-
scient considering that at the time not
only were the coming trends of archi-
tecture unknown, but most people
contemplating the future still thought
Y2K was an apocalyptic threat and
prophecies of global warming seemed
far-fetched to many.
Observing the modern world is an
easier task. As important as it is to
heed Bollinger's words of advice and
look toward the future when creating
Michigan's architecture, buildings are
inherently products of contemporary
ideology. Consider that the Michigan
League was born out of a male-domi-

grams."
Consider the aspirations of North
Quad to integrate academic space,
media cafes and student housing.
Programs that may have never been
thought of as amiable partners are
now being interwoven into single proj-
ects. Striving to be cutting edge, the
Ross School of Business is also tackling
technology head-on to create spaces
that don't look futuristic but function
futuristically. While it's hard to pre-
dict future innovations now, whatever
they are, they're sure to be valuable
fixtures of each new building erected
on campus.
on the other hand, building tech-
nology is rapidly changing industry,
so staying on the cutting edge means
accruing considerable risk. New archi-
tectural features often adorn modern
structures as aesthetic highlights, and
often they're soon dated as new inno-
vations outpace them. The Biomedical
Science Research Building is a prime
example of pioneering building tech-
nology with its undulating double-glass
fagade sweeping across the site. Like
many fashions, this building technique
blossomed in Europe before landing
in the Americas. Sure, it looks cool
today, but who knows how it will fare
in decades to come. It's easy to imagine
a time in the near future when people
eye the building's reflective skin and

are slated to become certified by the
United States Green Building Council
for Leadership in Energy and Environ-
mental Design, and more projects of
every scale are feeling the push to go
green.
Like technology, sustainable build-
ing practice is a less visual aspect of
architecture. Reducing toxic chemi-
cals in buildings, increasing indoor air
quality and lessening pollution related
to construction and building mainte-
nance are issues often overlooked due
to factors like cost. All the school's
building projects should be 100 per-
cent environmentally friendly, and so
far all signs seem to indicate that the
University is heading in that direction.
If the University wants to remain
architecturally progressive, trends like
technology and sustainability should
be accepted and articulated in campus
development far into the future. Trends
ofcreatinggloballyrecognizable archi-
tecture should not. Global thinking is a
not an inherently bad movement, but
so-called global architects could be
and should be avoided if the Univer-
sity wants to maintain its individual
character. This globalist trend entails
hiring starchitects - world-renowned
architects - to make a signature piece
for a location. Worldwide, architects
like Frank Gehry are being called on
by cities to create memorable archi-
tecture. Though these architects are
awe-inspiring designers, the architec-
ture produced is often designer-based
as opposed to place-based.When every
location has a unique Gehry building,
it ceases to seem unique, and the nov-
elty soon wears thin. So far, Michigan
has only dabbled in such techniques -
Venturi's Halo around Michigan Sta-
dium and Renzo Piano's design for a
new building on the Law Quad are two
examples. So far, though, the campus
has kept its local character by welcom-
ing architects specific to each job.
Reacting against sprawl and the
growing ubiquity of generic places
where franchises and strip malls
define a community, urban planners
are searching for ways to bring back
personality to urbanized areas. Unlike
much of Michigan, Ann Arbor has
essentially been spared this challenge,
but that doesn't mean the fight is over.
A look at the University's current mas-
ter plan shows that it is trying to main-
tain the unity and character of campus
as Ann Arbor grows up around it.
See ARCHITECTURE, Page 12B

tal balls, they must do so with vigor,
optimism and, because ultra-futuristic
buildings usually look dated within a
few months, a sense of caution and the
realistic notion that we probably won't
be wearing jet packs anytime soon.
Their propensity for foresight is cru-
cial because the stakes are so high.
Although much of the VSBA work
still provides the foundation for the
University's planning principles, it has
been constantly updated and refined.
University planner Sue Gott said it's
important to realize the difficulties of

planning a campus with ever-chang-
ing needs.
"Campus planning will continue to
be influenced by many unpredictable
dynamics," she said in an e-mail inter-
view. "But the need for social interac-
tion and a physical environment that is
inspiring will likely remain timeless."
University structures are steeped
in tradition, whether they're glorified
icons, like Burton Memorial Tower, or
just backdrops for memorable events.
Take the Big House, where football
fans find solace in the fact that no mat-

AND CONSTRUCTION The classically ornate entrance of Angell Hall CHANEL VON
HABSBURG-LOTHRINGEN/Daily, The Biomedical Science Research Building CHANEL
VON HABSBURG-LOTH RING EN/Daily

exclaim, "That look is so early 2000s!"
As the campus considers its next fleet of
architectural projects, hopefully who
will consider technology as a process-
driven aspect of design, rather than an
architectural exclamation point.
Sustainability is another concern

that is becoming increasingly impor-
tant in construction. With the world's
increasing awareness of its environ-
mental woes, this trend is likely to pick
up steam in the next few decades. The
Mott Children's and Women's Hos-
pital and the Ross School of Business

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