University of Michigan Research Studio

  • area / size 3,715 sqft
  • Completed 2015
  • McIntosh Poris Associates was engaged by the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to design the Michigan Research Studio located in Detroit, Michigan.

    McIntosh Poris Associates was hired by the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to design the Michigan Research Studio, an off-campus facility offering the college preparatory Architecture Prep Program (ArcPrep) to Detroit public high school students. Firm Principal Michael Poris, AIA, who is also a Taubman alum, led the project team. Located on the ground floor of the mixed-use Woodward Garden Apartments (a ground-up building designed by McIntosh Poris Associates) in Detroit, the 3,715-square-foot open facility emulates a collegiate design studio, emphasizing creative learning through multiple teaching environments in the same space. The floor plan provides flexibility for seminars, lectures, student exhibitions, and teaching fellows conducting architectural research.

    Although the program was fully funded, the budget for the build-out was tight. Early designs included more extensive amenities and support spaces, but costs were higher than anticipated and required a program reduction. The architects resolved setbacks by designing a minimalist, open studio simulating a collegiate classroom setting with flexible spaces for working, critiquing, and lecturing. Students work off laptops and drawing tables and incorporate wall pin-ups as part of their learning process. This strategy was not only effective in creating a stimulating environment for the students, but also in keeping build-out costs low.

    An abundance of natural light engulfs the space as a result of wall-to-wall windows facing the street. The University of Michigan’s spirit is depicted through bold school colors in yellow and blue paint. Exposed ceiling components (structural steel, ductwork, and plumbing) are concealed in blue, while amenity areas (water fountains and bathrooms) are identified in yellow. Polished concrete flooring and pendant tube lighting contribute to the industrial vibe. Suspended multi-directional ceiling fixtures produce glare-free indirect lighting, perfect for screen use. Revealing these architectural elements helps students understand the inner workings of building components.

    Drawing tables and chairs can be reconfigured in small or large groups to encourage student interaction.Pin-up boards along the north and west walls provide space for students to make presentations and exhibit their work. Spotlights along aluminum hanging rails create an art gallery effect. Minimal furnishings, such as a cabinet, wooden tables, and shelving unit, provide additional storage yet keep the space uncluttered. By reducing the space down to bare essentials, the architects created an inspiring place for learning.

    ArchitectMcIntosh Poris Associates
    Photography: Justin Maconochie