McIntosh Poris Associates
Michael Poris, AIA, Principal-in-Charge
Laurie Hughet-Hiller, Associate, Project Manager
Ross Hoekstra, Designer
University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
3,715 square feet
Located on the ground floor of the mixed-use Woodward Garden Apartments (also designed by McIntosh Poris Associates) in Midtown Detroit, the Michigan Research Studio supports the mission of the building’s minority developers and the entire Woodward Garden Block, who spent 10 years renovating the area back to an educational, cultural, and creative community.
The open floor plan features flexible lecture and studio spaces, plus restrooms.
The Michigan Research Studio was created by the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to realize its vision of a college preparatory architectural education program for local minority high school students. Though taken for high school credit, the Architecture Prep Program (ArcPrep) was modeled after college-level courses with instruction on architecture, urbanism, and design led by Taubman College teaching fellows. The program encourages greater minority diversity in the architecture field.
McIntosh Poris Associates was hired by the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to design the Michigan Research Studio, an off-campus facility offering the college preparatory Architecture Prep Program (ArcPrep) to Detroit public high school students. Firm Principal Michael Poris, AIA, who is also a Taubman alum, led the project team. Located on the ground floor of the mixed-use Woodward Garden Apartments (a ground-up building designed by McIntosh Poris Associates) in Detroit, the 3,715-square-foot open facility emulates a collegiate design studio, emphasizing creative learning through multiple teaching environments in the same space. The floor plan provides flexibility for seminars, lectures, student exhibitions, and teaching fellows conducting architectural research.
Although the program was fully funded, the budget for the build-out was tight. Early designs included more extensive amenities and support spaces, but costs were higher than anticipated and required a program reduction. The architects resolved setbacks by designing a minimalist, open studio simulating a collegiate classroom setting with flexible spaces for working, critiquing, and lecturing. Students work off laptops and drawing tables and incorporate wall pin-ups as part of their learning process. This strategy was not only effective in creating a stimulating environment for the students, but also in keeping build-out costs low.
An abundance of natural light engulfs the space as a result of wall-to-wall windows facing the street. The University of Michigan’s spirit is depicted through bold school colors in yellow and blue paint. Exposed ceiling components (structural steel, ductwork, and plumbing) are concealed in blue, while amenity areas (water fountains and bathrooms) are identified in yellow. Polished concrete flooring and pendant tube lighting contribute to the industrial vibe. Suspended multi-directional ceiling fixtures produce glare-free indirect lighting, perfect for screen use. Revealing these architectural elements helps students understand the inner workings of building components.
Drawing tables and chairs can be reconfigured in small or large groups to encourage student interaction. Pin-up boards along the north and west walls provide space for students to make presentations and exhibit their work. Spotlights along aluminum hanging rails create an art gallery effect. Minimal furnishings, such as a cabinet, wooden tables, and shelving unit, provide additional storage yet keep the space uncluttered. By reducing the space down to bare essentials, the architects created an inspiring place for learning.
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.
Construction Manager: Means Group Inc
MEP Engineer: MA Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Photography: Justin Maconochie