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Down to the Last Detail

A Window On the State of Legal Education

By Clarissa Sansone and Katie Vloet
Photography by Philip Dattilo

"The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life." So said the architect and designer Charles Eames. A fine example of that: the details in South Hall, the new academic building that reflects the design of the older buildings on the Law Quadrangle while also injecting new life into the look and feel of the Law School.

Did someone steal "Petty Larceny"? No—it absconded to South Hall. Some of the Hutchins Hall windows featuring legal cartoons had to be removed to accommodate the entrance to Aikens Commons—among them, "Petty Larceny," "Receipt of Stolen Goods," "Contracts," and "Coercion." These windows, along with colored-glass panes from Hutchins Hall, now adorn the doors to South Hall's student lounge, another of the many design elements that tie together the new and old buildings.

Above each of the three public entrances to South Hall is a legal symbol in bas relief: at the Monroe Street entrance, the scales of justice; at the entrance on Oakland, a torch illuminating an open book; and above the State Street door, a lamp atop stacked tomes. These legal symbols, in addition to being thematically appropriate to South Hall, connect the new to the old: the Law Quad's buildings contain 14 small and 36 large shields that repeat these and other legal images and themes.

The focal point of South Hall's main floor, Elkes Grand Hall is marked by an impressive light fixture above and a medallion design under foot. Placed like a compass at the crux of four hallways, the starburst medallion was designed by the lead interior designer for South Hall, who also handpicked the precision-cut stones that compose it. Elkes Grand Hall is named after the late Terrence Elkes, '58, who was active in steering the Law School Campaign, and whose Elkes Foundation supports the Law School and other organizations.

The elegant working gas fireplace in South Hall, which sets a reflective mood for the building's quiet student lounge, features tile from Motawi Tileworks of Ann Arbor. Motawi tiles are known for their rich glazes and uniquely American designs, inspired by nature, art, and architecture.

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