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Allan and Alene Smith Law Library Addition

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1978–1981, Gunnar Birkerts and Associates. Monroe and Tappan sts.

In deference to the Gothic beauty of the Law School Quadrangle and the pedestrian access to it, Michigan architect Birkerts, who was born in Finland in 1925 and was an associate of Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto, designed an underground addition to the law library. One does not have the feeling of being in a cave because the addition is daylit, is decorated in warm greens and yellows, and affords peeks at the York and Sawyer masterpiece ( WA7.7). Light moats penetrate the roof, bringing daylight into the building, and mirrors set perpendicular to mullions reflect glimpses of the Gothic details and of the sky. A grand staircase descends three stories to the depths of the building, and balconies off the staircase overlook the light well. The reinforced-concrete addition wraps partially around the Cook Legal Research Building and at the top floor connects directly into its main hall. Like the underground additions to Williamson Hall, the campus bookstore for the University of Minnesota, designed by Myers and Bennett/BRW and erected in 1977, it does not disrupt campus pedestrian patterns or block views of historic buildings.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Allan and Alene Smith Law Library Addition", [Ann Arbor, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 147-147.

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