Thursday, January 16, 2003

16 Jan 2003

Few buildings even on the North Campus are as dreary as Lorch Hall. I used to say that a university's wealth can be seen in its economics department's opulence. However, in the case of the University of Michigan, I wonder if this really holds true. Although it is a very grand structure, it seems as if built for giants; basketball players would even feel dwarfed walking down the oversized hallways. But it isn't the size itself that is dreary, but the attempts to enliven and modernize the innards of a building that seems to have been designed to revel in the richness of wood, stone, and metal. However, this richness of formed nature is covered with so much manufactured nonsense that what you are left with is not the opulence advertised in the exterior architecture, but a sort of communist inspired triumph of bland. Instead of filling the space with warmth and - admittedly "formed" - nature, hallways are painted painful shades of pastel creams, pistachio, and cappuccino brown. Instead of vaulted stone (or even plastered!) ceilings, there hang the ever-present, and always suffocating ceiling tiles; a painful leftover scar from a cheap retrofit. If the original architect were to see this structure now, what would he say? Would he wish he allowed for future retrofits to his original layout? Would he go stark raving mad? The Dana building is nearing the end of its makeover and green retrofit. Will someone say the same about it as I do about Lorch? Is it really important to use "green" products in a retrofit of the School of Natural Resources? And, really, who decided to use such vertigo-inducing materials for the bathroom stalls?

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