Architecture building to bring improved resources

Rendering courtesy School of Architecture
Rendering courtesy School of Architecture
Rendering courtesy School of Architecture

A new design studio building for the School of Architecture (SoA) is expected to be completed by spring 2017. While some say the addition is long overdue, other architecture students are concerned with the building’s look.

Coastal Construction donated about $3.5 million for the construction of the building, which will be named the Thomas P. Murphy Studio Design Building after UM alumnus and CEO of Coastal Construction Murphy.

The state-of-the-art facilities will include a fabrication lab, lounge, computer lab, presentation areas, offices and workspaces designed for digital production.

Annette Gallagher, the director of Communications for SoA, said these tools will be new and improved versions of what previously existed within the school.

“Tools like printers are constantly changing and upgrading like smartphones,” Gallagher said. “So the basic technology is the same as it’s been for 25 years, but they keep on improving and getting better and faster and sharper.”

Catalina Ruiz-Luzio, a second-year architecture student, says a shortage of resources has caused problems in the past.

“You have all these students running around trying to get stuff cut, but there aren’t enough printers for all the projects that were going on at the same time,” Ruiz-Luzio said. “At the end of the day, there were students who had to cut everything by hand.”

Fellow second-year architecture student Erin Hickey agrees that more facilities will also help when unpredictable technical problems occur.

“Basically, the main rule with architecture is everything is going to take longer than you think it’s going to, or something is going to go wrong,” she said. “So that’s why, if we had more facilities, it would give us some more cushion for those problems that will for sure occur.”

Hickey said the current studios, although historic, feel “outdated” and create a negative impression of the school.

“I feel like we’re less respected sometimes because of how [our buildings] look,” she said. “When people come here, they always talk about other schools they visited and how much nicer their architecture schools looked. When you see this, you’re not exactly impressed.”

Still, some students have expressed concerns about the new building regarding its style and structure. Alex Underwood, a first-year architecture student, said the new studio “almost looks like a bunker” and may not be welcoming.

“They’re trying to build it out of concrete and that just doesn’t look inviting,” he said.

Underwood says he was also disappointed in the absence of input from students and faculty in the design process.

Max Erickson, a first-year architecture student, shares similar sentiments and believes the building will not be consistent with other buildings on campus.

“I’ve been hearing some people who are dissatisfied with its inconsistency with the character of our school,” he said.

Erickson added that design issues include a “weird, flat, drooping roof” and “an octopus of metal tubes” running across the ceiling near the bathrooms. He also thinks the building lacks sound absorbency and has structural flaws that prevent natural ventilation and may cause problems if the system breaks down.

But Ruiz-Luzio has more faith in the SoA’s approval of the plans.

“I just see good things happening,” Ruiz-Luzio said. “The Billy Goat happened, and that kind of put the School of Architecture in the spotlight for a little bit when no one ever comes here. Maybe the new building will do the same thing. It’s just going to push us forward.”