The Making of: The University of Michigan,
Stephen M. Ross School of Business

KPF transformed the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in two phases beginning in 2004, completed in 2018.

The design creates visual interest by mixing smooth glass that is clear and fritted with machined terra cotta, split-faced sandstone, and water-jet finished granite, providing a spectrum of colors, and textures. Terra cotta is the building’s most prominent material.

Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.
Overview shots of the campus, before and after renovation. Right image courtesy of Aerial Associates.

The team created detailed drawings and models to convey the design concept. These informed the development of a full-scale mock-up to confirm the design; this mock-up also worked to demonstrate the construction.

A series of dies devised by the manufacturer shaped the clay into extruded tiles, forming the terra cotta façade. These extruded tiles fit together like puzzle pieces. The team traveled to Munich to observe the production in the factory.

A two-story, full-scale mock up of the curtain wall and terra cotta were built in a testing facility in Miami where a jet engine was used to test the strength of the pieces. This also tested the walls’ response to wind and water penetration.

An on-site workmanship mock up was built for the contractors to understand interfaces between systems. The architects, engineers, and contractors agreed on solutions to the identified problems.

Development process with the KPF team at the factory in Munich and testing facility in Miami. A workmanship mock up was built on-site in Ann Arbor.

For Phase 2, the school’s priority was reuse and sustainability. Phase 2 would be denser to improve the type and quality of space, while offering a cohesive aesthetic that would remain respectful of the existing campus.

The KPF design team worked with the University to fulfill these goals. A new building, Blau Hall, with six stories and flexible work space was constructed to replace a previous, shorter structure. The school’s Kresge Library was renovated and expanded to include new interior spaces and a high performance exterior wall. The Alessi courtyard and Garden Walk were redesigned and integrated to match the updated aesthetic of the project.

Plans for the transformation highlighting the massing strategy and renovation sequence.
Phase 2 in its context (left), with the reclad Kresge Hall joining Phase 2 Blau Hall and Phase 1 buildings (right). Images courtesy of Tim Griffith.

By limiting the construction and re-purposing and refurbishing the remaining buildings, the buildings’ histories were preserved and the carbon footprint of the project decreased.

In the renovation process, over 95% of construction waste material was recycled, with interior and exterior building materials supplemented with recycled content. The building’s energy consumption is now 23% lower than a standard code compliant building. Under floor air distribution, water efficient plumbing fixtures, drip irrigation, and green roofs are just some of the sustainability features of the project, allowing the update to achieve LEED Silver (Phase I) and LEED Gold (Phase II).

Limited terra cotta, glass, and stone interventions improved entries and massing, weaving the project into a seamless whole. The brick and concrete buildings and parking garage remained were treated with a neutral gray elastomeric coating and open screen walls of terra cotta and aluminum fins with glass and perforated aluminum panels suspended in front of the existing facades.

Before and after view of the Ross School of Business. Before image courtesy of David Ottavio. After image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

On the parking garage, the team applied a screen of aluminum fins and powder-coated perforated metal panels, which accommodate passive ventilation. Installation teams were careful not to disturb adjacent trees and greenery around the building throughout the renovation. In addition, a historic tree was relocated to an honorific position at the main entrance of the school.

At the Executive Residence and Wyly Hall, the original buildings’ horizontal strip windows are partially visible behind the screen wall, which adds texture and unifies the complex architecturally. Retaining existing buildings eliminated demolition cost and reduced the impact of new materials. Beveled glass edges create rainbow reflections, and the University of Michigan logo casts shadows into the interior.

Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.
Diagram of the glass fin layering.

Envisioned as a 100-year building for the school, the complex was designed to include spaces that nurture a joy of learning that will represent the institution long into the future. The complex is a world-class facility with an enduring local identity that solidifies the University of Michigan as one of the premier business schools in the country.

The refurbished courtyard (left) and details of the screen wall on the parking garage (right). Images courtesy of Tim Griffith.

The program includes a colloquium, gym, career center, student services, faculty and department offices, as well as a variety of instructional and meeting spaces that offer natural light and views to the lush landscaping around the building. The “Center of Centers” offers a shared setting for students that gathers research facilities into one convenient location.

The atrium of the Ross School of Business. Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

Further collaborations with the University of Michigan include the Football Performance Center, a core portion of the Ross Athletic Center, elevating the facilities for one of the school’s most successful teams.

Ferry Field Commons is a concept project located along the University’s iconic Walk of Champions, offering a mixed-use resource with a dining hall, nutrition center, and study spaces for student-athletes.

Outside of Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan’s campus extends with the Detroit Center for Innovation. The project includes facilities for high-tech research, education, and innovation for university students and the community at large.

These KPF-designed collaborations all share the same goal: to showcase the University of Michigan’s ethos for caring about the whole student, creating spaces which foster the desire to learn and excel.