University of Michigan Law School, Hutchins Hall Addition and New South Hall

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
116,000 square feet
Integrated Design Solutions / Hartman-Cox
Construction Management
2012 “Build Michigan Award” from the Associated General Contractors of Michigan, LEED® Gold certification

The stately structures that make up U-M Law School are one of many reasons the institution is so well known. Built between 1923 and 1933, these historic buildings boast intricate stone façades and period characteristics. The Law Quad holds a distinguished charm that U-M did not want altered, but growing enrollment and demand for gathering space at the Law School made additions inevitable. Walbridge was up for the task.

The additions came in the form of a 16,000-square-foot, skylight-enclosed commons space, named the Robert B. Aikens Commons, with a lower level and grand exterior entrance at 80-year-old Hutchins Hall; and a newly constructed 100,000-square-foot academic building, called South Hall, located directly across the street.

In addition, the project team removed a metal skyway connecting the Law Quad structures and installed a new glass and steel bridge. A new-and-improved façade on the Cook Legal Research Library collections wing – nicknamed “the Stacks” for the rows of old books it houses – was also part of the scope.

Walbridge took home a 2012 “Build Michigan Award” from the Associated General Contractors of Michigan for its work at U-M Law School.

Hutchins Hall

The lower level of the Hutchins Hall addition offers study space, a café, dining facilities, elevators and restrooms.

An atrium on the main floor of the addition pours sunlight over a vast seating area that’s enclosed by the exposed 80-year-old skin of surrounding Law Quad structures.


South Hall

The new four-story South Hall across the street takes the same collegiate gothic appearance of the time-honored Hutchins Hall, yet inside are high-tech classrooms and lecture halls, state-of-the-art multi-purpose facilities and contemporary administrative space.

The modern interior of South Hall, however, is adorned with details reminiscent of the Law School’s rich history, such as stained-glass caricatures salvaged from the renovation of Hutchins Hall.

It was very important to the university that the stone façade of South Hall meticulously match that of the older Law Quad structures.

Walbridge, which served as construction manager, achieved substantial completion of the new Aikens Commons and South Hall in September 2011 – three months ahead of schedule.

Awards Aren’t Born of Easy Jobs

Maintaining the integrity of the time-honored architecture of the existing buildings was the greatest challenge. Construction had to be carried out in a way that blended the all the new work with existing structural design.

A major portion of the job would have to be conducted in a confined space between historic structures, and no existing foundations could be damaged. But to create the multi-level Aikens Commons, Walbridge had to excavate 20 feet below the surface of a courtyard surrounded by the 80-year-old walls of Hutchins Hall and Cook Legal Research Library.

Also, Law School classes had to continue uninterrupted throughout the duration of the project, spanning from June 2009 to September 2011.

Making a Social Impact

Since its completion, the new Commons at historic Hutchins Hall has been referred to as a unifying addition, bringing much-needed, vibrant space to the Law School for students and faculty members to network and gather.

And it wasn’t just students and faculty that gained from the work. From locally produced Motawi tiles to limestone sourced from within a 500 mile radius, the regional economy benefited from Law School’s renovation and expansion, too.

In the end, the project team’s work not only provided much-needed learning spaces for the University of Michigan Law School, but it made use of an idle piece of the property at the university by transforming it into a energetic new environment.

In 2012, South Hall achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification. The building earned environmental and design points for site selection and development, community connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, and water efficiency.