The West Quadrangle renovation is the final project in the University of Michigan’s Residential Life Initiatives (RLI) program and the commitment to improve student housing across campus. Since 2008, the IDS team of architects and engineers has been part of these dorm renovation projects including Stockwell, Couzens, Alice Lloyd and East Quad. Built in 1937, the historic West Quad houses the Cambridge House dormitory and is home to over 1,100 students. With one of the best locations on main campus, the building is also connected to the Michigan Union. This renovation includes standard infrastructure updates and improvements to the three-story 290,000-square-foot heritage building. The unique feature of this project is the social pathway that leads from West Quad to the new dining hall in South Quad called The Connector.
Building community through student interaction has been a strong focus of the RLI projects. The goal is to give students a place to hang out and socialize within their own residential facility. West Quad is no exception with a commitment to providing a comfortable and safe haven for culturally and socially diverse students. The International Center has been housed in West Quad for years so it was a natural extension to create this pathway, explains IDS Principal-in-Charge Chuck Lewis. We are trying to create space where students can come together and celebrate their differences. The goal is to connect students who may otherwise feel disconnected through food, literature and art. The courtyard level of the building, home to The Connector, was gutted and has a different aesthetic than the rest of the space. Modern tranquil design offers a clean slate to those students who will organically define the pathway. The upper two floors of the building are refreshed while maintaining the historical finishes of the classic architecture. Repurposing the space is always more challenging. This building has a lot of character, explains IDS Interior Designer Melissa Miko. We will be matching the existing finishes as a way to respect the historic architecture of the building. The dining facility has been removed from West Quad, as students will now use the new facility in South Quad, allowing for much-needed additional lounge and study space.
One of the main challenges of the project was defining the circulation paths throughout the building with many entry points on many different levels. We had to make the building accessible, as well as determine a new circulation path for the students who live there, Lewis explains. We reorganized the building and created additional public pathways. Students no longer have to walk through other residential areas just to get to their own room.
The building has been designed to meet or exceed all energy standards. With the addition of a new regional chiller plant located at South Quad, the cooling tower at West Quad was eliminated, boosting the overall energy efficiency.
As West Quad seeks to offer a home to students who are culturally and socially diverse, another sense of connection is on the horizon. With South Quad, Munger and now West Qua Lewis observes. we’ve created another student neighborhood on campus. It seems like the University has hit their mark to create meaningful, 21st century residential housing where all students can live and come together with a sense of community!