Regents OK design for Law School project

The Board of Regents approved schematic designs for construction that will expand instructional space at the top-ranked Law School for the first time since the school's main classroom building opened in 1933.
Schematic designs for the new four-story instructional and administrative Law School building complement the current architecture. (Photo courtesy Hartman-Cox Architects)

The designs, approved during the Oct. 23 regents meeting, are by Hartman-Cox Architects of Washington, D.C., working in association with Michigan-based Integrated Design Solutions. The centerpiece of the project is a four-story instructional and administrative building — complementary to the collegiate gothic style of the iconic Law Quad — to be built just across Monroe Street, south of the existing buildings. Also integral to the project will be a new Law School Commons area, which will rise in an unused grassy area east of Hutchins Hall and south of the Legal Research Building.

"The buildings of Michigan's Law Quad are among the most distinguished on any American college campus, and symbolize the unique environment we provide for legal education," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "This impressive expansion builds upon that legacy as we work to educate the next generation of legal experts."

The new instructional building will add classrooms and clinical spaces suited to the changed requirements of a top-flight legal education, which has evolved considerably since Hutchins Hall opened on the Law Quad in 1933.
The new Law School Commons will be built in an unused grassy area between Hutchins Hall and the Legal Research Building. (Photo courtesy Hartman-Cox Architects)

Today's law students take smaller classes, have much more interaction with each other and with actual clients in supervised clinical settings, and draw heavily on such technologies as wireless networks. The new instructional building will be designed to meet all of those needs, in addition to providing more space for a student body that has more than doubled — and a law faculty that has more than quadrupled — since the last time the Law School added classroom space.

The Law School Commons, a two-story, glass-roofed center for student life including group study spaces, gathering spots and a café, is destined to become the heart of the Law School, which already is noted for its collegial atmosphere. The commons is designed to bring the classic spaces and outer walls of the quad indoors, to help students connect with the unique and beautiful educational environment of the Law School and with each other.

One last piece of the project: removing the gray metal siding that covers parts of the Legal Research Building and an elevated pedestrian walkway connecting that building with Hutchins Hall.

Total cost of the expansion and renovation project is estimated at $102 million and will be paid for with gifts from private donors, proceeds from University investments and Law School resources.

"On the cusp of our 150th anniversary, we welcome these additions to our historic and magnificent Law Quad," says Dean Evan Caminker, who also notes that one building on the Quad, the Reading Room, was chosen for the American Institute of Architects list of America's 150 favorite buildings. "When these new buildings are completed, they will help Michigan Law lead the field of legal education for another 150 years."