The University of Michigan Museum of Art is an expansion and renovation of the museum’s historic home, Alumni Memorial Hall which was completely renovated and integrated with the new addition. The 54,000 sf expansion occupies one of the last buildable sites on the original 40-acre campus, completing the primary public facade of the university and serving as an important gateway for students and residents of Ann Arbor.
Where Alumni Hall is exclusive and introverted, the new architecture is open and immediate. The building is formed by three cantilevered walls of concrete and limestone that radiate from a central core of open space. These armatures reach out to hold three distinct landscape rooms: to the south a new entry court adjacent to Alumni Hall, to the east a cloistered sculpture court, and to the north an open court to the heart of campus. In contrast to the cantilevered walls, shells of steel and glass engage the courtyards, admitting light into the galleries and circulation corridors within. These enclosing veils of structure filter light from above and frame views to the landscape through a series of transparent lenses. A three-story “vertical gallery” defines the heart of the new building, a column of space that draws visitors into the galleries and unifies the new wing by visually connecting works from the museum’s diverse collection.
With two acts of building, one bounded and one transparent, the extension creates a union of opposites – enclosed and exposed, dark and light, introverted and connected to the surrounding city and university.