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Updated 10:00 AM October 20, 2003



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U-M selects architect for major UMMA expansion

Allied Works Architecture, a firm that has earned several prestigious museum commissions, has been chosen to oversee a major expansion and renovation of the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA). The $35 million project will include a 55,000-square-foot addition, as well as a complete renovation of the existing facility.

The Museum Apse at UMMA. (Photo by Cibele Vieira)

Two major gifts, $5 million from an anonymous donor and $1 million from Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen of Brighton, have been announced toward the project, which will be financed largely by private support.

The expansion will more than double museum space, from 41,676 square feet to 95,396 square feet. It will include the renovation of the elegant Beaux-Arts style building built as Alumni Memorial Hall in 1907, and a new addition to house expanded gallery space, an auditorium, classrooms and improved visitor amenities.

"The many ways in which the University Museum of Art connects to our academic mission make it a unique asset for our students, faculty and the public," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "The museum is a vibrant asset and increasingly an educational partner with academic programs across campus. As demonstrated so clearly by the St. Petersburg tricentennial, the museum plays a significant role in supporting interdisciplinary learning and engaging the community in the visual arts."

"This project will give the University an art museum facility equal to the stature of its collections and exhibitions, and restates the University's commitment to leadership in the visual arts," says James Steward, director of the museum. "The Museum of Art will be literally and figuratively at the heart of the University enterprise, serving as a gateway to our Central Campus both for our students and the broader community. I am delighted that a project of this stature, on such a visible site, will be in the hands of an accomplished architect."

Bob Bohlen, chairman of and Anyi Management Co., real estate related enterprises, says, "Our gift to the University of Michigan Museum of Art stems from my belief in the visionary leadership of director James Steward. I am not a graduate of Michigan nor is my wife, Lillian, but under James's direction, we see the opportunity to propel UMMA to the front ranks of all museums—not just university art museums. Because its core mission is to educate, UMMA has been able to take on risks and challenges that are simply not possible in most civic museums."

"We are extraordinarily grateful to those who have already stepped forward in support of this project, and to those we know will soon make a commitment, for their belief in this museum's ability to create a vibrant environment for engagement with the visual arts," Steward says.

Portland, Ore.-based Allied Works Architecture, founded by principal Brad Cloepfil in 1994, recently completed the new Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. The U-M project marks its fourth museum commission in the past five years. The firm recently garnered national attention with commissions for the redesign of Two Columbus Circle in New York City to house the Museum of Arts and Design and a dramatic expansion of the Seattle Art Museum. The Wall Street Journal recently called Cloepfil a "rising star whose buildings seek to complement rather than shout down their environments." The firm's design for a real estate firm in Portland, Wieden Kennedy, won the Business Week/Architectural Records Awards. The firm also is designing the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, in a new downtown cultural district that will include major buildings by Frank Gehry, Sir Norman Foster and Renzo Piano.

"This is a very exciting and challenging project, one that encompasses restoring and reinvigorating the existing Alumni Memorial Hall while creating a new dynamic addition for the arts on campus," Cloepfil says. "It provides the unique opportunity to create a thoughtful and delicate dialogue between historical and contemporary architecture, to forge a singular new identity for the Museum of Art, yet with multiple purposes and perceptions."

Allied Works Architecture was chosen after a broad review of credentials by a number of leading U.S. and international firms, a request for proposals from15 firms of these, and interviews of four finalists.

"Allied Works Architecture stood out for its understanding of the programmatic needs of the expansion and for its subtle consideration of the site," Steward says.

The museum has experienced a 50 percent increase in attendance since 1997, and anticipates 130,000 visitors in 2003. Currently, the facility can display only 3 or 4 percent of its 16,000 works of art, and it lacks adequate space for temporary exhibitions and secure classroom and study spaces for teaching and research that draw on original works of art.

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