When the University of Michigan Regents approved schematic designs for the $85.2 million renovation to the Michigan Union, one focus was on their minds -- students. Which is entirely fitting as the iconic Union -- a centerpiece of U-M campus activity since its construction in 1919 -- was initiated and its growth has been driven by students since its inception.
From the beginning of the renovation process, the Michigan Union Board of Representatives (MUBR) and the student organization Building a Better Michigan (BBM) were instrumental in surveying student support and successfully advocating for improvements to the Union.
Jason Comstock, co-president of BBM, who recently delivered a speech to U-M President Mark Schlissel and the Regents to raise awareness about needed renovations, says “We provided input to the architects and designers on what students would like to see changed in this project. We also toured the unions at Ohio State and Cincinnati to identify features of their buildings that we can incorporate these into our own renovation.”
Dating back to its beginning in the early 1900s, the Union was founded first by students as a club, with the physical structure built in 1919. It has always been a central location for student involvement, activism and social structure.
“This renovation will bring the iconic building back to life and make the students excited about their Union again,” Comstock explains. “My parents are Michigan alums and they have always been proud of their Union building. After the renovation, I hope to boast the same pride of the Union as my parents did when they attended this great University.”
Helen He, MUBR chairs, agrees.
“Student input is critical to the Michigan Union renovation process. Thousands of students walk into the Union each day and their activity is what makes the Union thrive. Students provide a fresh and necessary perspective to the renovations and we hope that the end results will reflect what students have voiced,” she says.
Accolades for the design were also noted when the Michigan Union Renovation Consultants were recognized for Research Excellence by the Environmental Design Research Association. Workshop Architects, consultants for the Michigan Union Renovation project, earned the Environmental Design Research Association’s (EDRA) Certificate of Research Excellence (CORE) for its social research effort, “Campus Capital Framework: Mapping Meaning to Inform the Michigan Union Renovation.”
The EDRA CORE program recognizes and celebrates exceptional environmental design research as applied to design projects. The Campus Capital Framework assessed the significance that students attribute to the Michigan Union and other important places on campus. Results showed that the Michigan Union not only ranks among the most significant places on campus, but is also the only place that ranked among the top settings for each form of capital. These findings provided administrators and designers with a baseline measure of place meaning on campus for the Michigan Union and future campus planning projects, and a basis for future post-occupancy evaluation.
The renovated Union is expected to be completed in winter 2020. Among the improvements to the 250,000-square-foot landmark will be greater accessibility and inclusiveness for all individuals and enhanced social space. A state-of-the-art student organizational space featuring an IdeaHub as well as more room for counseling and student support services will also be included.
Groundbreaking on the project is anticipated in spring 2018.