We are very excited to be awarded the 2019 AIA Detroit Honor Award for our renovation of the University of Michigan Aaron Friedman Marine Hydrodynamics Center.
The project challenge was to reinvent an eleven-foot-wide corridor adjacent to a 300-foot-long “tow-tank” in a 115-year-old historic Albert Kahn building to tell the story of University of Michigan’s Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering’s unique and rich heritage and capture the spirt of its future. Thanks to a generous donation from the family of 1943 Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering alumni, Aaron Friedman, the renovated facility will now feature an updated entryway and a series of exhibits and displays that both celebrate the department and the many accomplishments and contributions of
its distinguished alumni, Mr. Friedman.
The exterior entry to the project is located along a main campus student pathway that slices through the first floor of West Hall, an historic campus landmark and one of the original engineering buildings on campus. A key element of the project’s mission was to dramatically enhance the image and brand of this unique learning and testing environment on campus to attract new faculty, students and potential corporate partners. The corridor and entryway to be transformed are shaped by existing classrooms and office space on one side and the ‘towtank’ on the other. Existing original wood framed windows provide views from the current corridor to the “tow-tank”.
The solution built on leveraging the rich materiality of watercraft and all things nautical to create an immersive, inspirational educational setting. White colored walls recall billowy sails and the hulls of today’s watercraft. Angled teak board and glass display cases look to celebrate the craft and history of the past. Their teak ceilings extend out into the corridor to create a more intimate viewing experience while also concealing extensive existing infrastructure in the ceiling above. A continuous LED backlit blue glass display band embedded with historic imagery provides a watery quality to the viewing experience. The blue glass band is located adjacent to the “tow-tank” to further convey the water filled tank’s presence beyond what is provided by the handful of existing original windows that view into it. The white and blue glass display wall frames out the existing windows treating them like artifacts of the original 115 year old structure. A quiet gray porcelain tile floor allows the other materials and colors to take center
stage. The floor tile’s large format sizes and matt finish provide a sophisticated museum-like quality to the space. An existing utility floor trench that needed to remain accessible is covered in the same large tiles set into a custom stainless steel framework of access panels. A removeable ramp over top of a portion of the floor trench recalls dock-to-ship gangplanks and provides barrier free access throughout the corridor.