If one stands on the Diag and observes the surrounding
buildings, external differences are difficult to see. Recent
renovations have modernized Angell Hall, but to the untrained eye
most seem to belong in the same architectural family. The buildings
on Central Campus each have unique and interesting traits, but few
have as distinct a personality as the Frieze Building.

Janna Hutz
The Frieze, previously an Ann Arbor high school, still boasts some charm despite its many problems. (EUGENE ROBERTSON/Daily)

Built in 1907, the Frieze building was the Ann Arbor High School
until the University acquired it in 1956. If one approaches the
building from the south side, it as if time is reverted back to the
1950s and you can almost see high school students in full skirts
and skinny ties socializing outside before the start of class,
replacing the harried university students. Coming from the north
side, one is transported even farther back in time to the early
20th century. In this scene, the current students transform into
Ann Arbor residents of the 1920s exiting the building carrying not
schoolbooks, but library books from the city library. The Carnegie
Library, a historic part of Frieze, was occupied by the Ann Arbor
Public Library until the public library moved to its current
location.

Entering the building continues the trip back in time. The
addition built in 1957 is classic retro, full of harsh architecture
and brown and beige decor. Dark narrow hallways and low ceilings
create an oppressive feel in much of the addition. Walk around a
little more and you will certainly stumble across the rows of
lockers. Lockers in a University facility? “It looks like a
broken-down old high school,” says Justin Stoney, an LSA
senior, “Oh wait, it is.” Students on campus are eager
to criticize the Frieze building and many reacted with enthusiasm
to University President Mary Sue Coleman’s plans to demolish
the building and construct a new residence hall and academic space.
“Good riddance. I think it’s a terrible building.
It’s old and it smells bad,” Stoney adds.

The building deterioration is considered far below the standard
of education prided at the University. “It is one of the
uglier buildings,” acknowledges Gary Beckman, the chair of
the Near Eastern Studies department. Notable aesthetic differences
between Frieze and other facilities on campus may also be
interpreted as placing unequal value on various LSA departments.
“All the programs that aren’t mainstream are
conveniently placed in the Frieze building. It’s
insulting.” said Hilary Baer, an LSA senior majoring in
political science. Currently the building houses the LSA
departments of Film and Video, Communication Studies, the Frankel
Center for Judaic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Asian Languages
and Cultures and Linguistics, along with the Music School’s
Theatre and Drama department.

Although the addition built in 1957 is dated and unattractive,
the original parts of the building constructed in 1907 exude a
certain charm. In addition to the high ceilings and large windows
of the older sections, there is a pervasive creative energy. Two
theaters, production studios, costume and scenery workshops and
film and video classrooms are full of students working towards
creating art. This undercurrent of activity breathes life into a
building that will not have the chance to see it’s 100th
birthday.

The new building will house a 500-bed residence hall and
academic space with facilities for academic departments as part of
an initiative to more closely link students’ academic and
residential experiences. “It’s exactly what the
University of Michigan needs more of and it’s a great
location,” said Stoney. Baer agrees, believing this will be
especially beneficial to freshman as a “gradual immersion
into a huge campus.”

The residence hall will consist of suite-style rooms with shared
semi-private bathrooms. Shared academic areas will include space
for use by students and faculty, such as meeting rooms, studios,
classrooms and production facilities. Faculty offices will also be
located in the building. A combination of academic and residential
life may be beneficial for students, but “one wonders how
noisy an academic and dorm building will be,” questioned
Beckman. “I don’t think it would be very nice to have
rap music coming through the walls while trying to work.”

In addition to questions from faculty and staff about their
future relocation, members of the Ann Arbor community are concerned
about the demolishment of the building. The announcement of the
future razing of the Frieze Building received mixed reactions in
the Ann Arbor community. Local preservationists expressed wishes
for the University to restore the building in recognition of its
historical significance in Ann Arbor. Coleman addressed this issue,
explaining that restoration would cost significantly more than
construction of a new building. The University will attempt to
preserve some of the building’s historical importance,
incorporating the Carnegie Library into the new facility.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2006 and completion is
targeted for 2008. Students have little time left to appreciate the
Frieze building as a piece of history, beloved by community
members, or to commiserate with others fed up about its current
state.

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