Sitting on a concrete bench in front of Burton Memorial Tower while gazing toward the Modern Languages Building can take you back in time. Unattractive, ugly and outdated, the building is like opening a photo album of when you were an infant sitting on your parent’s bell-bottomed lap amidst an olive-green shag carpet and orange-yellow walls. We may think, “Man, what were my parents thinking with that decor? That’s downright hideous. I guess that was the style back then.” The MLB’s style is a thing of the past, and contemporary architecture has a new agenda. While yesterday’s designs placed the importance of style below a building’s form and function, today’s architects are taking another look at how their buildings look.

Jess Cox
Renovations on the University of Michigan Museum of Art are scheduled to begin in 2006.
Jess Cox

As a highly ranked university, we pride ourselves on a rich academic tradition and solid athletic program, but in the end, we still just want to be cool. Try to define cool in words and come up short. “Those shoes are cool. I like those.” Why? “I don’t know, man. They’re just cool.” It is an intangible but unmistakable phenomenon, and that is exactly the point. Yet cool architecture is not simply a passing fad, it is about how we experience the inside of buildings. In the age where the most pressing issue is what’s hot and what’s not, the University is about to get a flavor of cool architecture courtesy of Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture.

Like many contemporary buildings embracing the essence of cool, the University of Michigan Museum of Art expansion is all about experience. There is no mimicking of historic style, there is no political commentary. The building as a statement, the critical interpretations, the cultural implications

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