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Michigan Research Studio Attracts Minority High School Students To Architecture

Detroit—McIntosh Poris Associates’ design for the Michigan Research Studio—an off-campus facility for the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning offering college preparatory classes to Detroit minority public high school students—has been awarded the 2015 AIA Detroit Building Honor Award in the Small Project category. The project’s minimalist layout, open studio concept, and multi-teaching environment was acknowledged by the awards jury as “bold, simple, and cheerful.”

Located on the ground floor of the mixed-use Woodward Garden Apartments (a ground-up building also designed by McIntosh Poris Associates) in Detroit, the Michigan Research Studio provides the Architecture Prep Program (ArcPrep) taken for high school credit but modeled after college-level courses with instruction on architecture, urbanism, and design led by Taubman College teaching fellows. Although the program was fully funded, the budget for the build-out was tight. The architects resolved setbacks by designing a 3,715-square-foot open facility simulating a collegiate classroom setting with flexible spaces for seminars, lectures, student exhibitions, design studio, and architectural research.

The jury noted the project as an “excellent place for teaching and exhibitions by students and professors. Its multi-purpose use allows it to feel intimate, yet at times as public domain.”

To inspire students, the architects painted the University of Michigan’s bold school colors of yellow and blue within the interior. Exposed ceiling components (structural steel, ductwork, and plumbing) are painted blue, while amenity areas (water fountains and bathrooms) are identified in yellow. Polished concrete flooring and pendant tube lighting contribute to the industrial, studio-like vibe. Suspended multi-directional ceiling fixtures produce glare-free indirect lighting for easy screen use.

“We intentionally exposed architectural elements at various heights to help students understand the inner workings of building components,” said Michael Poris, AIA, Principal of McIntosh Poris Associates, who is also a Taubman alum. “This strategy was not only effective in creating a stimulating environment for the students, but also keeping build-out costs low.”

The space was reduced to bare essentials to create an inspiring place for learning. Drawing tables and chairs can be reconfigured in small or large groups for student interaction. Students work off laptops and incorporate wall pin-ups as part of their learning process. Spotlights along aluminum hanging rails create an art gallery effect. “It’s unapologetic about a minimal budget, showing the true skill of the designer,” added the jury.

McIntosh Poris Associates is a full-service architecture, interiors, and urban design firm. Founded in 1994 by Douglas McIntosh and Michael Poris, AIA, the firm’s goal is to transform buildings, communities, and urban centers with architecture realized through vision and dialogue. Since its inception, McIntosh Poris Associates has been designing award-winning projects for residential, commercial, and institutional clients. The firm has built numerous single and multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial, hospitality, institutional, and arts projects in Michigan, California, Connecticut, New York, and Ontario.

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