Designed by Malcomson, Higganbotham, and Trout in 1930-31, the University of Detroit Jesuit High School is a landmark in Detroit academics. How does this massive Italian Renaissance institution prepare students for their future? They’ve recently completed a $16 million science and technology addition, and Curbed talked to the architecture firm behind the design, Wold Architects and Engineers.
The four-level, 40,000-square-foot building fits between two historic buildings on campus, the main school and the Jesuit residence. Dan Kritta, the lead architect, says that they wanted to build a 21st century facility that pays respect to the original campus. The historic architecture is heavily ornate, reflecting the school's Jesuit origins. The exterior design of the STEM addition is simplified and made with more modern materials, but to similar proportions to the other buildings.
Inside, the Science and Engineering Center houses STEM activities including biology, physics, chemistry, and robotics. The school is heavily involved in national eco-car competitions, and the building features car-sized workshop spaces.
Kritta said that inside, they took cues from existing design, tiles, wainscot, and used products that have similar appearance to appreciate the theme of the old halls in the school. He says they, "Literally borrowed old epoxy science table tops, salvaged those, and contractors cut them down into bench areas and integrated into the design of the new corridors."
In designing the new space, the architects considered what the students need now and what they need to be successful in a technology career in the future. They created spaces where students can collaborate as teams, along with spaces where students can work independently. To spark scientific curiosity in the students, Kritta said they left some of the systems of the building exposed so students could see and think about how things work, and in the science and robotics lab, everything is on display.
Kritta said that the school formed a design advisory committee that was instrumental in guiding the process with the architects. He says they fully embraced the process and drew heavily from tradition. Here’s a look at the new addition.