Grace Anderson

Document Type


Publication Date



Confronted by the need to expand its library, the law school at the University of Michigan and its architect, Gunnar Birkerts, decided to go underground. The decision followed a precedent set by some other universities that, like Michigan, wanted to preserve open space above ground. Early efforts to raise a building on this site were rejected, Birkerts reports, when it became evident that such a structure would hide the Gothic presence of the existing library and impede visual and pedestrian access to the cherished Law Quadrangle formed by the older library and dormitories. Birkerts seized the underground assignment as a chance to create an unmistakable work of architecture rather than simply to ameliorate the lot of enforced troglodytes with interior decoration. Deprived of all the familiar external tools of architectural design- massing, facade, structural expression- he turned for help to an old friend: daylight.