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The Dean’s Design Challenge: Student Studio Space Needs

For the past five years, the Stamps School of Art & Design has worked tirelessly to reconfigure, maximize, and repurpose spaces within the Art & Architecture building.

While the school’s freshmen enrollment numbers haven’t changed significantly since fall 2007, curricular changes responding to the shifting landscape of creative practices — including technological advances in the methods of making — have emphasized the need to embrace 21st century pedagogies alongside traditional approaches and medias.

“Research, conceptualization, and material realization work together at Stamps,” said Guna Nadarajan, Dean of the Stamps School of Art & Design. “If we are to truly nurture the culture makers of tomorrow, it is our responsibility to ensure they have a strong foundation in the making methods of today and the foreseeable future.”

While the combination of old and new medias has led to incredibly rich work, it has also introduced a fresh design challenge for our spaces: how can we meaningfully connect these varied practices in the teaching and learning environments in the school? Where can we house laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers, and other digital fabrication tools in a building originally constructed for easels, potter wheels, and looms?

In 2014, Nadarajan commissioned a space needs analysis to answer these questions and determine how much additional room would be needed to continue to deliver our rigorous, competitive, transdisciplinary curriculum. The outcome of the analysis states that the school needs at least an additional 50,000 square feet to accommodate current student body needs, and would require an additional 50,000 square feet to meet the demands of any future enrollment growth. As a project of this scale would require a built addition to our current building (or the construction of an entirely new building), Dean Nadarajan decided that a best use of current available resources would be to move forward with renovation and repurposing of our current footprint in the Art and Architecture building and our Green Road studio. These projects will begin in summer 2018 with expected completion by the end of fall 2018.

As part of the plans to carve out new space, the school moved to fully repurpose the former Jean Paul Slusser Gallery housed within the Art & Architecture building to create a two-floor, collaborative making, meeting, and learning area for undergraduate students.


As difficult as it is to let go of Slusser Gallery traditions, this shift has paved the way for the school to open the new Stamps Gallery — an 8,000 square foot exhibition space in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor designed to provide more space and exposure for student and faculty work. And, most importantly, the repurposing of the Slusser Gallery was done in the best interest of our students, providing much-needed workspace for Stamps undergraduates within the Art & Architecture building.

“It’s important to note that we’re not currently creating space to expand our enrollment numbers,” Nadarajan stated. “We value our selectivity and our tight-knit creative community. But it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the best possible education for our current students — and to ensure a sustainable, resource-rich future for the school. And much of that comes down to addressing space needs.”


The Studio Campaign Fund supports Stamps Students by enabling capital improvements and space expansion to the school. Join us in these efforts.