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A New Legal Landscape

Legal education has changed considerably since Hutchins Hall opened on the Law Quad in 1933, as have the educational requirements of a top law school such as Michigan. Today's law students take a greater number of small classes, have much more interaction with each other and with actual clients in supervised clinical settings, and draw heavily on technology. A new four-story academic and administrative building will meet these needs, in addition to providing more space for a student body that has more than doubled—and a law faculty that has more than quadrupled—since the last time the Law School added classroom space. About the same size as Hutchins Hall, the new building houses classrooms, clinics, student services, multipurpose spaces, and faculty and staff offices.

Ground was broken for South Hall, the new academic building, during the Law School's Sesquicentennial Celebration weekend in September 2009. The area across Monroe Street and south of the Quad now houses a 100,000-square-foot structure with Collegiate Gothic–style architecture similar to that of the Law Quad, and, like the other Quad buildings, clad in stone and roofed in slate.

The new academic building, as seen from Monroe Street.

Hartman-Cox Architects of Washington, D.C., working in association with Troy, Michigan–based Integrated Design Solutions, designed the structure. Hartman-Cox Architects' extensive portfolio includes many Collegiate Gothic buildings, and Integrated Design Solutions has worked on many buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

This new addition to the Law School map complements a robust curriculum. Student attorneys in the renowned clinical law program now have a professional setting in which to serve clients. More classroom spaces, of varying sizes and fully equipped technologically, provide enhanced learning environments for a variety of classes. Common areas with functional gathering spaces reinforce Michigan Law's collegial atmosphere; they accommodate student organizations on the Quad and offer more places for social interaction. Finally, faculty and staff have contemporary workspaces that meet their current needs.

Robert B. Aikens Commons
The two-level Robert B. Aikens Commons officially opened September 7, 2011. The space occupies a formerly unused grassy area between Hutchins Hall and the Legal Research Building. The 16,000-square-foot structure features a glass and steel roof, and maintain views of the picturesque stone walls and leaded glass windows that surround it.

The Robert B. Aikens Commons.

The vibrant new heart of the Quad, Aikens Commons includes a main floor with a café and a variety of seating options, and a lower level designed to facilitate student meetings and study groups.

For renderings of the finished spaces and images of the construction, check out the Construction Multimedia page. 

A New Face
One last, but significant, piece of the overall construction project was to remove the incongruous gray metal siding covering parts of the Legal Research Building, and reclad these areas with a stone facing that blended with the rest of the building.

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Cost of the expansion and renovation project is being funded through a partnership between the University and the Law School, with private donors contributing the majority of the funds.

"We welcome these additions to our historic and magnificent Law Quad," said Evan Caminker, dean of the Law School. "When these new buildings are completed, they will help Michigan Law lead the field of legal education for another 150 years."