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Landmark design unveiled for major UMMA expansion


The University has unveiled the design for an expansion and renovation of the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA), a $35 million building project designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture.
The Frankel Wing of UMMA will house new gallery space, state-of-the-art collections storage, conservation and study areas, an auditorium, and more. The space will be a modified T-shape. The façade of traditional stone and glass materials will reflect the masonry style of surrounding buildings. Museum staff members hope to break ground in 2006. (© 2004 Allied Works Architecture)

The project will include a 56,000-square-foot addition to be called the Frankel Wing, as well as the complete restoration and renovation of Alumni Memorial Hall, the Beaux-Arts style building that has been the museum's home since its foundation in 1946. The design and naming were approved June 17 by the Board of Regents.

The addition will more than double the museum's existing space—from 40,572 to 97,346 square feet—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 Frankel Wing 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 campus on the other. The addition creates a sequence of exterior landscape spaces allowing opportunities for outdoor art, while reinforcing the southwest corner of 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," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "The architect's choices embody our commitment to art, to education and to building bridges to the community."
This rendering shows the expansion of UMMA to the north. The addition will more than double the museum's existing space. (© 2004 Allied Works Architecture)

Alumni Memorial Hall, erected in 1907-10, was one of the last new structures to be built on the original 40-acre campus. The Frankel Wing extends the museum's façade along State Street and reinforces the ceremonial face that University buildings, such as historic Angell Hall, present along the major thoroughfare. The addition is sited directly north of Alumni Memorial Hall.

"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," says UMMA 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 design balances materiality with transparency, creating an interplay of stone, glass, and vertical steel cladding, Steward says. The transparency of some façade views will reveal the building's function, creating 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, Steward says. Cantilevers reinforce the design's innovative use of positive and negative space, he says.

The expansion's façade 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 whose exterior will remain largely unchanged. The addition will be built at grade, maximizing its barrier-free access for the public and allowing for three levels above ground while still honoring the roofline of Alumni Memorial Hall.

UMMA's current entrance will remain the primary and symbolic way in to the museum, while a new State Street entry 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.

The design for the expansion of the museum is intended to preserve the integrity of the original building, home to UMMA 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, museum staff announced a $10 million gift—the largest in its history—from The Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation of Bloomfield Hills. The gift provides major support for the Cloepfil addition, which was named The Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing.

Construction will begin when fund raising is complete. The museum staff hopes to break ground in 2006 with a projected opening in 2008 during centenary celebrations for Alumni Memorial Hall.

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