The project consisted of a visioning and programming study of the current 20,000 square foot Alumni Center at the University of Michigan. Built in the early 1980s, Hugh Newell Jacobsen designed the facility for its staff’s specific needs 30 years ago. Today, while a beloved structure for those who know it, the building doesn’t represent the Michigan Alumni brand aesthetically or functionally.
The Alumni Association’s current staff has more than doubled in size since the building was originally constructed. Where employees once benefited from the luxury of large private offices, they now needed to work collaboratively and wanted a more adaptable and more open space. Similarly, the original building design was focused inward, and through the lush growth of surrounding vegetation, it blended in with its surroundings. Today, many students on campus don’t know that the building exists, which is a problem for the Alumni Association, which seeks to attract these students who may one day become members. As the building’s heritage and location on campus make building expansion difficult, the University was torn between how much campus activity an Alumni Center really needs and how much of that space needs to focus on the Alumni Association’s staff work environment. Therefore, the University needed guidance in creating a vision for the Alumni Center to guide its growth and development in the years to come.
The project’s vision drew inspiration from the staff at the Alumni Association. As part of numerous visioning sessions with the staff, IDS’s role was to extract the building’s current needs and future goals of the association. Our task was to uncover how a renovation would support those goals and represent the brand image, what it would look like, how it can attract students, and how it benefits members.