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U-M Unveils Landmark Design for Major Expansion of Museum of Art

June 17, 2004—The University of Michigan has unveiled the design for a transformative expansion and renovation of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, a $35 million building project designed by architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture.

The project will include a 53,000 square-foot addition, as well as the complete restoration and renovation of Alumni Memorial Hall, the elegant Beaux-Arts style building that has been the Museum’s home since its foundation in 1946. The design was approved by the U-M Board of Regents June 17.

The addition will more than double the Museum’s existing space and will house substantial new gallery space; state-of-the-art collections storage, conservation, and study areas; an auditorium; classrooms and hands-on art-making facilities; an expanded museum shop; and public gathering spaces and improved visitor amenities.

The Allied Works-designed addition extends the Museum to the north in the form of a modified T-shape, connecting with the existing building through a central axis with two radiating arms that project toward the street, on one side, and toward the heart of the University campus on the other. These arms reach symbolically toward the community and University constituencies engaged and served by the Museum, and respond to the challenges of a historically critical site on the University’s original campus. The addition creates a sequence of exterior landscape spaces creating dynamic opportunities for outdoor art, while reinforcing the southwest corner of the campus as a public gateway to the University.

“I am delighted to see a design that is so respectful of the landmark status of the Museum of Art and so effective in ensuring that the Museum will preserve that character well into the future,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “The architect’s choices embody our commitment to art, to education, and to building bridges to the community.”

One of the last new structures to be built on the University’s original 40-acre campus, the Museum addition is sited directly north of the Museum’s current facility, Alumni Memorial Hall, erected in 1907-10. The addition extends the Museum’s facade along State Street and reinforces the ceremonial face that University buildings such as historic Angell Hall present along this major thoroughfare. The design preserves and captures the popular pedestrian path linking State Street with the Diag, the historic heart of the University’s Central Campus in Ann Arbor.

“One of our central goals has been to turn the Museum inside out, to make it dramatically more accessible to our students and the broad community—and this design brilliantly achieves this in a very tight context,” said Museum Director James Steward. “We wanted a building that would respect its setting, be highly functional, and be a thing of beauty in its own right, all of which mandated that we work with a visionary architect like Brad and his team at Allied.”

The refined yet evocative design balances materiality with transparency, creating a lively, elegant interplay of stone, glass, and vertical steel cladding. The transparency of some facade views will reveal the building’s function beyond the form, creating tantalizing glimpses into public spaces and gallery zones while allowing for controlled natural light in many gallery spaces. From twilight, the building will become a particularly vibrant conceptual beacon for the arts. Cantilevers reinforce the design’s innovative use of positive and negative space.

“The design for the expansion of UMMA was motivated by three fundamental aspirations,” Cloepfil said. “First, from its critical position on State Street, to join the historic heart of campus with the rest of the civic and academic community of Ann Arbor. Next, to unify and amplify the distinct periods of history represented in the existing architecture on campus. Finally, to create a sense of immediacy—a direct connection between the collections and programs of the Museum and everyday life on campus. The expansion will serve as a catalyst for new activities and experiences, where the boundaries of art, life and landscape merge to become one.”

The expansion’s facade of traditional stone and glass materials reflects the masonry style of surrounding buildings and integrates with the scale, color, and texture of Alumni Memorial Hall, which will be restored but its exterior will remain largely unchanged. The addition will be built at grade, maximizing its barrier-free access for the public but also allowing for three levels above ground while still honoring the roofline of Alumni Memorial Hall. The entire project conveys a thoughtful dialogue between historical and contemporary architecture that has become a hallmark of Cloepfil’s design portfolio.

While clearly establishing its own visual vocabulary, the addition’s form and massing defer to the principal facades of Alumni Memorial Hall, allowing the existing building to retain its presence as the primary image of the Museum. UMMA’s current entrance will remain the primary and symbolic entrance to the Museum, while a new State Street entrance at grade level will open into a public Forum, which will remain open for extended hours allowing access to evening lectures, performances, classes, and other public programs held at the Museum.

Its highly visible setting, stately architecture, and origins as a war memorial lend Alumni Memorial Hall a particular emotional resonance. The design for the expansion of the Museum of Art follows its self-imposed mandate to preserve the integrity of the original building, home to the Museum since its establishment in 1946, including restoring many original architectural features. Skylights will be re-opened in a number of public areas, including the central double-height Apse, and original moldings will be uncovered and restored. Mechanical systems, including electrical, heating, cooling, and humidification will be upgraded.

To date, the Museum has reached more than half of its funding goal for the $35 million project, most of which will come from private sources. Last month, the Museum announced a $10 million gift—the largest in its history—from The Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The Frankel gift provides major support for the Cloepfil addition, which was named The Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing today by vote of the U-M Board of Regents. Construction will begin when fund-raising is complete. The Museum hopes to break ground in 2006 with a projected opening of the expanded Museum in 2008, during centenary celebrations for Alumni Memorial Hall.

Museum attendance has risen by 50 percent since 1997, with more than 130,000 visitors in 2003. Physical limitations of Alumni Memorial Hall prohibit the Museum from displaying more than 3 to 4 percent of its world-class collections of some 17,000 works of art at any one time and provide inadequate space for temporary exhibitions, educational activities and collections storage. The expansion and renovation will enable the Museum of Art to accommodate increasing national and regional attention and visitorship generated by path-breaking special exhibitions such as Women Who Ruled: Queens, Goddesses, Amazons 1500-1650, The Romanovs Collect: European Art from the Hermitage, and Georgia O'Keeffe and the Sublime Landscape, opening in July 2004.

Equally important will be the enhanced contribution that the Museum makes to the academic mission of the University. The Museum of Art serves as a teaching and research resource for disciplines across the University, but the lack of secure classroom and study spaces currently inhibits many University students and faculty from working with original works of art. Art scholarship will be advanced with the creation of dedicated object-study classrooms, including a dedicated center for works on paper, as well as a center for visiting scholars.

According to Steward, “We are seeking to eliminate many of the boundaries between scholarship and public engagement, putting scholarship to the service of the broad public. Spaces such as these in which the hand of the artist can be observed close-up are critical to a renewed interest in the authentic experience art can provide in this digital age.”

Portland, Oregon-based Allied Works Architecture, founded by principal Cloepfil in 1994, completed its first new freestanding cultural facility in the United States with the September 2003 opening of the new Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. The awarding of the U-M Museum of Art project marks the fourth museum commission Allied Works Architecture has received in the past five years. The firm recently garnered national attention with commissions for the redesign of new quarters for the Museum of Arts and Design (formerly the American Craft Museum) at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City, and a dramatic expansion of the Seattle Art Museum. The Wall Street Journal has singled out Cloepfil as a “rising star whose buildings seek to complement rather than shout down their environments.”

Allied Works Architecture was appointed by the U-M Regents in October 2003 following a rigorous selection process in which a number of leading U.S. and international firms were considered.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art holds one of the finest university art collections in the country, including extraordinary masterworks by such artists as Dürer, Guercino, Whistler, Monet, Hokusai, Picasso, and today’s avant-garde. In 2002, the New York Times wrote that UMMA is “in the forefront” among university art museums taking on intellectually rigorous, interdisciplinary projects that also engage broad audiences; Art News recently noted that it is “considered one of the finest university art museums in the United States.”

For media only: For additional information or to obtain downloadable images of the building design, please contact Stephanie Rieke in the UMMA communications department at srieke@umich.edu or 734.647.0524.

 

Digital images copyright 2004 Allied Works Architecture.