WMU Campus History

Western Michigan University Design Charrette

May 19, 2006

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bullet The Campus Design Charrette met in May 2006 to study and develop concepts for rejuvenating the two major open spaces on the Western Michigan University campus:  the Miller Plaza and the West Michigan Mall (the east-west corridor formed by the former West Michigan Avenue).  It was initiated and organized by Evie Asken, Director of Campus Planning.

bullet Construction and renovation project in these areas are altering campus pedestrian patterns and are likely to change open space requirements.  It has been determined that storm water collection on campus must be handled more efficiently and, in keeping with today's standards, must be approached in a more sustainable manner. The physical plant staff have identified significant maintenance issues relating to the campus hardscape.  Additionally, architects have some challenges in adapting existing conditions to the requirements of new projects.

bullet These and other factors contribute to an opportunity to physically and visually enhance the campus open spaces, to plan for efficient and user-friendly pedestrian circulation, and to plan for and coordinate activities in and around the buildings surrounding the West Michigan Mall and the Plaza.

bullet The Campus Design Charrette was organized as a day-long planning session with four design teams composed of practicing architects, architecture students and faculty, and WMU students.  In the weeks prior to the Charrette participants were provided with a comprehensive assortment of preparatory materials and information on the existing conditions, including campus maps and photographs, and summaries of the most important issues relating to use and function, maintenance, and aesthetics.

bullet The morning of May 19 everyone met in a classroom in Dunbar Hall for introductions and "planning philosophies".  WMU planning staff, projects architects, engineers, and physical plant staff were on hand throughout the day to answer questions, act as campus guides, and assist the teams as needed.


Introduction from Phil VanderWeg, Director of School of Art

The teams assembled in assigned "workrooms", setting up computers and laying out drawings and plans before walking the campus.  For most participants this was their first visit to WMU, and it was the first opportunity for the teams to evaluate the campus as a group.

At the end of the day the teams presented their concepts in the Dunbar classroom.  The presentations were in every format, ranging from free-hand sketches to chipboard site models to digital imaging, 3D modeling and Power Point displays.

bullet Notes from design presentations

The concepts generated by the four charrette teams, while very different in style and substance, had several ideas and observations in common:

  • Must be ultra-flexible; open space on campus should accommodate many uses and activities
  • Solutions to stormwater retention and disposal must be integral to the design
  • Must have total accessibility
  • Campus' East Entrance needs development
  • Campus' West Entrance needs enhancement
  • Planning should include iconic sculpture
  • East side of campus needs more parking
  • Plazas and pedestrian areas should be fun, engaging, interactive

bullet Presentation to the CPFC

In June, 2006, Campus Planning Director Evie Asken presented a summary of the ideas and concepts generated in the Charrette to the Faculty Senate's Campus Planning and Finance Council (CPFC).

Design Teams:

  • Allegretti Architects with Andrews University, Division of Architecture
  • DSA Architects with Lawrence Technical University, College of Architecture and Design
  • Hamilton Anderson Associates with University of Detroit Mercy, School of Architecture
  • Progressive AE with University of Michigan, College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Resource materials:

bullet Project and/or planning descriptions for:

  • Brown Hall
  • Richmond Center for Visual Arts
  • Sprau Tower Cafe
  • Plaza Landscape Issues
  • Miller Auditorium

bullet Other Plaza Issues from the Campus Planning and Finance Council

bullet Comments from the Chair of the Campus Planning and Finance Council

Charrette contributors:

  • WMU Campus Planning and Finance Council, and its Chair, Dr. Richard Gershon
  • Phil VanderWeg, Director, WMU School of Art
  • WMU student volunteers
  • Professional staff from WMU Campus Facilities and Physical Plant
  • Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber, for campus plans and stormwater analysis



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Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5313 USA
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