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A STEM-focused building creates a new axis on the campus of Lawrence Technological University

A giant carbon-fiber orb is a focal point for the Michigan-based school. 

December 08, 2016 |

The 36,700-sf Taubman Complex is connected to neighboring buildings on campus by lifted bridges. Image: ©Nic Lehoux

As part of an ambitious expansion and renovation campaign, for which it has raised in excess of $125 million, Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., recently debuted its $16.9 million, 36,700-sf A. Alfred Taubman Engineering, Architecture, and Life Sciences Complex, which is home to the Marburger STEM Center, and provides a collaborative learning environment for emerging technologies such as robotics, biomedical engineering, and mechatronics.

The building, which opened in August, combines the Science and Engineering Buildings. Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects, the project’s Design Director, designed the Complex as an “extruable section” of the campus, meaning that it is expandable as needed. Subsequent phases of this project could include an addition to the one-story wing of the Engineering Building, more classrooms and lab space, and expanded resources for programs such as Architectural Engineering and Industrial Design.

Two floors of labs overlook an open flex space that’s the heart of the Complex, with a reconfigurable hall for meetings and lectures. Clerestory glazing fills this space with light defused with an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) scrim along its east and west facades.

The building establishes a new axis for the campus, as it is linked to neighboring buildings by lifted bridges. It also creates a new focal point for the University’s quad thanks to a 44-foot-high carbon-fiber circulation “orb,” floating above a reflecting pool, which contains a main staircase and marks the entry of the building.


A 44-foot-high orb, the entry to the Taubman Complex, includes an interior stairwell with translucent floors that let in natural light. Image: ©Nic Lehoux


The orb is capped at both ends by circular skylights that let sunlight in through translucent floors of the stairwell. To accommodate the design of the curved structure, Albert Kahn Associates, the project’s AOR and EOR, oversaw the rigorous testing and manufacturing processes to achieve a first-of-its-kind carbon fiber composite formulation and application. (Kahn includes several LTU alumni, including Alan Cobb, FAIA, the firm’s president and CEO, who was Executive Architect on this project.)

The carbon fiber is layered with wedge shapes, like a football, which allows the orb to maintain its structural integrity.

Professional Engineering Association served as the civil engineering consultant on the project. The Mannick & Smith Group provided geotechnical advice. The building is shooting for LEED Silver certification. 


The new building includes a large, flexible open space with a reconfigurable hall for meetings and conferences. Image: ©Nic Lehoux

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