Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-MI-Ann Arbor

Cook Law Quadrangle (1923-33)

York and Sawyer, Architects

The University of Michigan Law School

South University Avenue at State Street  Ann Arbor, MI

Aerial and Map View

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Photos taken November 4 and 5, 2011

The Cook Law Quad is one of those special places where you just feel good being there. Walking through any one of the 3 arched portals from South University Avenue, you are tranformed as you enter a beautiful space enclosed by a collection of exquisitely detailed Gothic Revivial buildings. The great lawn is crisscrossed by walkways, and has grand old trees scattered about in just the right amount to provide shade in some places and sun in other places for students to relax, talk with friends and maybe even study. The scale of the dormortories to the north and east, the dining hall to the west, and the gothic tracery windows of the Library Reading Room to the south provides a varied and timeless backdrop in all directions. I recommend entering from South University Avenue through the portal closest to State Street, next to the Lawer’s Club. The archway tunnel turns into a cloister with an arched colonnade revealing the secluded lawn beyond. Architecture is a 3-dimensional artform, only truly appreciated by progressing through the spaces and experiencing the sequence of views carefully revealed by the architecture. The UofM Law School is a textbook example.

Link to History Web Page

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Biomedical Science Research Building (2006)

Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects), Architect

The University of Michigan Main Campus

109 Zina Pitcher Place, Ann Arbor, MI

Aerial View and Map Link

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Photos taken November 5, 2011

Driving north on Washtenaw Avenue right at the curve where the road turns into East Huron Street, this building is directly in front of you, sited to command your attention. The curvy double glazed facade of the offices forms a backdrop for the windowless auditorium building which sits by itself in front. The laboratories are in more traditional rectangular blocks to the north and the west of the site. The laboratories are linked to the offices with an atrium. See the aerial view link above to get a plan view of the building’s organization. In the space between the double glazing of the office facade are rolling cages for window washing on tracks, a modern intrepertation of the old library ladders.

Many years ago, while working on a small project within one of James Stewart Polshek’s notable projects in NewYork City, I had a meeting in their New York office with the project architect. Mr. Polshek happened to come into the conference room and I had a conversation with him, albiet a brief one. After being introduced, Mr. Polshek turned to me and said “oh, you are the retail guy”, then turned and walked out of the room. Well perhaps “conversation” is an exaggeration, as I think the only thing I was able to say to him before he walked out was “nice to meet you”. But I can say I met him, and I guess he can say he has met me….as he enjoys his retirement in his apartment in Paris.

The Polshek Partnership, now called Ennead Architects, has designed some finely detailed and interesting projects for mostly institutional and corporate clients. They have been able to produce some interesting, unique and occasionally bold buildings for these clients that are usually controlled by large board of directors – which traditionally results in boring, least-common-denominator designs. Check out some of their notable projects including the Clinton Presidential Library, The New York Standard Hotel, and The Rose Center for Earth and Science at the American Museum of Natural History.

Architect’s Project Profile Information

University of Michigan Building Profile Webpage


Ross School of Business (2009)

Kohn Pederson Fox Associates,  Architects

The University of Michigan Campus

701 Tappan Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Aerial View and Map

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Last Visited April 24, 2011

Architect’s Project Profile Sheet


Traverwood Branch Library (2008)

inFORM Studio (formerly known as Van Tine|Guthrie Studio), Architects

Ann Arbor District Library Traverwood Branch

3333 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Aerial View and Map

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Last visited June 19, 2011

Watch the video “Up from the Ashes” by clicking this link


The Wave Field (1995)

Maya Lin, Designer

Ann Arbor, MI

on the North Campus of the University of Michigan

Aerial View and Map

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Visited July 16, 2011

Very difficult to find, and fairly unknown, this hidden sculpture is worth driving around the beautiful UofM north campus setting searching for  a parking space. It is not that all of the parking spaces are taken, there are no public parking spaces close to this courtyard. If you are quick, there is a 15 minute drop off area across Hayward street with a couple spaces.

The scuplture is well maintained (better than the maintenance of the building), and is an interesting experience so walk around and see the various patterns the rolling waves make.

Links to The Wave Field webpages:

The Wave Field on PBS


Palmer House (1950)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View

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I recently came across this website for the Palmer House which is now available for weekend or weeklong rental. Along with photos and information, there is this video with a tour.  It was set up by the new owner of the house who purchased it from the Palmer Family.  I decided to look at a few of the snapshots of the exterior I took while the house was for sale – and have posted them here.  I toured the house with potential buyers who had owned a Frank Lloyd House on the west side of the state, and were interested in something closer to the Detroit area. I have no interior photos respecting the “no photos” request once we were let inside.  Luckly, the interior has been photographed professionally and the photos show up in the many Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian House books. Also, the realtor’s website is still up (as of today anyway) with a series of interior photos including rooms not usually published.

The Palmer House was the first Frank Lloyd Wright house I visited. My first visit was while I was in High School. The Palmer’s had the house open for the Ann Arbor Women’s Club House Tour. I skipped class and stood in line with a group of  ladies from the Ann Arbor Women’s Club. I think I was the youngest person in line by at least 30 years. The line slowly worked its way up the gravel drive, past the carport, and up the wide angled stairs to the front door. I remember next to the door there was a large shallow dish on the floor with a bird of paradise flower in front of a large floor to ceiling window. Simple, beautiful, and unusual. This glazing had a 30 degree angle with a glass to glass miter joint. I had never seen a window with a mitered joint like this. I was fascinated. Once inside, I experienced the magic of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture for the first time. The low roof at the entry compresses the space, and then after a carefully orchestrated path to the living room, the space opens up with the trangular ceiling lifted over the living room. The house  is layed out on an equlateral triagular grid. All of the walls come together at either 60 or 120 degree angles. This includes the masonry walls which use specially manufactured brick for the corners. I destinctly remember a woman telling her friend as they walked through the living room french doors to the natural garden path toward the tea house “It is an interesting house, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to live here”. I was thinking to myself that I could imagine what their homes were like, and I could not imagine anyone wanting to live in their homes!  As a young high school student taking drafting courses, this visit was one of those memorable milestones which inspired me to become an architect.