The Ford Robotics Building has completed and opened on the University of Michigan (U-M) campus. The $75 million project represents a singular new home for the university’s relationship with Ford and acts as a showcase for robotics research, cross disciplinary collaboration, and innovative industry/education collaboration.
Located on the University of Michigan North Campus, the building anchors the west end of a Michigan Avenue mobility testbed that begins in Detroits Corktown neighborhood and runs through Dearborn to Ann Arbor. The four-story, 134,000-sf project is an interdisciplinary center for mathematics, engineering, and computer programming faculty and researchers. The facility will be home to researchers that were previously spread across 23 separate buildings and is also the first robotics facility to co-locate an industry team (Ford’s mobility research center) with a university’s robotics leadership.
HED, in an effort to reflect a robotics program incorporates both theory and making, designed the building to appear both extroverted and enclosed simultaneously. From the outside, the most striking feature is the glass-clad facade that curves along Hayward Street. Composed of large bands of fritted glass with 30-inch-deep sunshades spaced 42 inches apart, the south-oriented glass wall allows diffused daylight deep into the building interior. The facade also allows visitors to see the activities occurring within.
Upon entry, visitors arrive within a four-story atrium defined on one side by the curved smooth-facing glass wall and balconies for the top three floors. The atrium is designed for a wide variety of uses and special events with a cafe, large-scale video screen, and a sophisticated sound system. The atrium is heated through displacement ventilation. Researchers all enter the labs via a shared team collaboration space, ensuring chance encounters, interaction, and collaboration between them.
HED designed the Ford Robotics Building to promote proximity and spontaneous interaction between students, faculty, researchers, and visiting industry professionals. The building includes the new hub of the U-M Robotics Institute on the first three floors and Ford’s robotic and mobility research lab on the fourth floor.
The custom U-M research labs are designed for robots that fly, walk, roll, and augment the human body. Multiple labs are incorporated within the building, including the Ronald D. And Regina C. McNeil Walking Robotics Laboratory for developing and testing legged robots. This specific lab has an in-ground treadmill that can hit 31 mph and a 20% grade, as well as carry obstacles to test walking robots that could aid in disaster relief and lead to better prosthetics and exoskeletons. A rehabilitation lab is designed for advanced prosthetics and robotic controls with a movable “earthquake platform” that can tilt in any direction while force-feedback plates measure ground contact.
A three-story fly zone allows for the testing of drones and other autonomous aerial vehicles indoors. An outdoor Mars yard was designed with input from planetary scientists at U-M and NASA to enable researchers and student teams to test rover and lander concepts on a landscape that mimics the Martian surface. An AI-designed “robot playground” outdoor obstacle course is designed for testing robots on stairs, rocks, and water surrounded by motion capture cameras. A high-bar garage space for self-driving cars allows for teams to test connected and automated vehicles in urban and suburban environments. Ford roboticists occupy the building’s fourth floor research lab and offices.
The Ford Robotics Building is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification. HED provided architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering services on the project.
Sports and Recreational Facilities | Mar 30, 2023
New University of St. Thomas sports arena will support school's move to Division I athletics
The University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., last year became the first Division III institution in the modern NCAA to transition directly to Division I. Plans for a new multipurpose sports arena on campus will support that move.
Designers | Mar 28, 2023
Inclusive design requires relearning how we read space
Pulling from his experience during a campus design workshop, David Johnson, AIA, LEED AP, encourages architects to better understand how to design spaces that are inclusive for everyone.
Healthcare Facilities | Mar 26, 2023
UC Davis Health opens new eye institute building for eye care, research, and training
UC Davis Health recently marked the opening of the new Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute Building and the expansion of the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC). Located in Sacramento, Calif., the Eye Center provides eye care, vision research, and training for specialists and investigators. With the new building, the Eye Center’s vision scientists can increase capacity for clinical trials by 50%.
Sports and Recreational Facilities | Mar 15, 2023
Georgia State University Convocation Center revitalizes long-neglected Atlanta neighborhood
Georgia State University’s new Convocation Center doubles the arena it replaces and is expected to give a shot in the arm to a long-neglected Atlanta neighborhood. The new 200,000 sf multi-use venue in the Summerhill area of Atlanta is the new home for the university’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and will also be used for large-scale academic and community events.
Sponsored | Cladding and Facade Systems | Mar 15, 2023
Metal cladding trends and innovations
Metal cladding is on a growth trajectory globally. This is reflected in rising demand for rainscreen cladding and architectural metal coatings. This course covers the latest trends and innovations in the metal cladding market.
Student Housing | Mar 13, 2023
University of Oklahoma, Missouri S&T add storm-safe spaces in student housing buildings for tornado protection
More universities are incorporating reinforced rooms in student housing designs to provide an extra layer of protection for students. Storm shelters have been included in recent KWK Architects-designed university projects in the Great Plains where there is a high incidence of tornadoes. Projects include Headington and Dunham Residential Colleges at the University of Oklahoma and the University Commons residential complex at Missouri S&T.
Virtual Reality | Feb 27, 2023
Surfing the Metaversity: The future of online learning?
SmithGroup's tour of the Metaversity gives us insight on bringing together physical and virtual campuses to create a cohesive institution.
University Buildings | Feb 23, 2023
Johns Hopkins shares design for new medical campus building named in honor of Henrietta Lacks
In November, Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine shared the initial design plans for a campus building project named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, the Baltimore County woman whose cells have advanced medicine around the world. Diagnosed with cervical cancer, Lacks, an African-American mother of five, sought treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 1950s. Named HeLa cells, the cell line that began with Lacks has contributed to numerous medical breakthroughs.
Sustainability | Feb 9, 2023
University of Southern California's sustainability guidelines emphasize embodied carbon
A Buro Happold-led team recently completed work on the USC Sustainable Design & Construction Guidelines for the University of Southern California. The document sets out sustainable strategies for the design and construction of new buildings, renovations, and asset renewal projects.
University Buildings | Feb 9, 2023
3 ways building design can elevate bold thinking and entrepreneurial cultures
Mehrdad Yazdani of CannonDesign shares how the visionary design of a University of Utah building can be applied to other building types.