As students study inside the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in Detroit, Mich., few may realize that automotive designers and engineers once created marvels of motion inside its walls.
The 11-story building now serves as home to the College for Creative Studies, but it was constructed in two parts in 1928 and in 1936 as General Motors’ original engineering and design center, formerly called the Argonaut Building. In 2009, a reconstruction team that included Walbridge and architect Albert Kahn Associates transformed the building into an artful education and commercial center, known today as the A. Alfred Taubman Center.
Reawakening the Creative Spirit
Engineering legend Charles Kettering and designer extraordinaire Harley Earl once roamed the hallways of the Argonaut Building on behalf of GM. The building, where the world’s first concept car was created, was originally designed by Albert Kahn and served for years as an incubator for automotive engineering and design advancements. Following relocation of GM’s headquarters to the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, the Argonaut Building became one of a number of vacant sites in the city.
Work on converting the building into a vibrant, new education and commercial center began in early 2008. Walbridge managed the careful reconstruction of this historic building over a 14-month period. Façade and structural repairs were carefully executed, along with safety upgrades and installation of energy efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
Today, the College for Creative Studies houses its Industrial Design undergraduate programs and various graduate programs at the meticulously renovated Taubman Center. The 760,000-square-foot building also serves as home to the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies, a charter middle and high school where students focus on art and design.
The A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education consists of spacious and technologically advanced classrooms, two large dining facilities, 150 comfortable dorm rooms, design studios, a conference center, fitness rooms and game rooms. It also includes a color and materials library, public galleries, and 80,000 square feet of commercial office space, including programmed space for the United Way.