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KPF has transformed the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in phases from 2004 to 2019.

Through both phases, glass, terra cotta, and warm sandstone define the material vocabulary of the building. The mixture of textures offers smooth glass that is clear and fritted, machined terra cotta, split-faced sandstone, and water-jet finished granite to provide a contrast in color, texture, and feel. Terra cotta is the building’s most prominent material.

Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.
Terracotta is the building’s most prominent material and juxtaposed the complementary materials of glass, green granite, and split-faced sandstone. Images courtesy of Tim Griffith.

The team created detailed drawings and models to convey the design concept.

The next step was to develop a full-scale mock-up to confirm the design; this also worked to demonstrate the construction.

The development of the terra cotta consisted of a series of dies devised by the manufacturer, which shaped the clay into extruded tiles. These extruded tiles fit together like puzzle pieces. The team traveled to Munich to observe the production in the factory and oversee the development of the two-story full scale mock-up of the curtain wall and terra cotta. A jet engine was then used to test the strength of the pieces as well as the response to wind and water penetration

The jet engine in the factory.

For Phase 2, KPF’s focus was to prioritize reuse and sustainability. In the renovation process, over 95% of construction waste material was recycled, avoiding landfills, 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).

Plans for the transformation highlighting the massing strategy and renovation sequence.
Construction of the process on site at the University of Michigan.

The KPF design team prioritized reusing existing parts of the building throughout the transformation in order to preserve the building’s history and decrease the carbon footprint of the project.

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 that were to remain were treated with 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 of the view of the Ross School of Business from an intersection. Before image courtesy of David S. Ottavio. After image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

On the parking garage, the team applied a screen of aluminum fins and powder-coded perforated steel panels, which accommodate passive ventilation. Installation teams were careful not to disturb adjacent trees and greenery around the building throughout the renovation. In addition, one historic tree was relocated to better unify the landscape.

At the Executive Residence and Wyly Hall, the original buildings’ horizontal strip windows are partially visible behind the glass, adding texture while eliminating demolition costs and reducing the impact of new materials. Beveled glass edges create rainbow reflections, and the University of Michigan logo casts shadows into the interior.

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.

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The mounted panels surrounding the building and the campus’ many trees. Images courtesy of Tim Griffith.

KPF’s partnerships have extended beyond the Ross School of Business’ exterior renovation, including the interiors of the project. The school features spaces for the students to work, ranging from quiet study areas to a double-height atrium for students to collaborate. The “Center of Centers,” a shared setting which the School’s research centers are gathered into one convenient location.

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

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