DETROIT – Los Angeles-based architecture practice Morphosis recently completed a new academic laboratory at Lawrence Tech University, just outside Detroit, Michigan. The Taubman Complex is amongst the first in a series of new buildings that are part of LTU’s effort to meet the demand of the university’s increasing population of students. It is expected to become the central hub for the new community.
Finished earlier this year, the 11,613-sqm building houses advanced facilities for robotics engineering, biomedical engineering and life science programmes. A two-storey laboratory of flexible interior layout overlooks the main communal space which expands across the length of the building.
The design focuses on the desire to connect the new and existing buildings, as well as an expectation that it should link to future developments within the complex. The laboratory’s linear form is what makes this effortlessly achievable: in its current state, the new construction sits modestly between two existing volumes, providing the desired physical link to the adjacent buildings. Further modules can then be added to elongate the overall volume in segments as future needs dictate. The project’s architect describes the future of the building as ‘an occupiable bar that can be extended in phases to accommodate growth while maintaining the function and design integrity of the building.’
The secondary aspect of the Taubman Complex is its welcoming impression as a communal space. The external façade seems to peel away and bow towards a mysterious black egg-shaped ‘orb’. This acts both as an enclosure for the internal staircases and an external reference point for the community and was built in collaboration with architect-engineering firm Albert Kahn Associates: ‘The orb is capped at both ends by circular skylights that allow sunlight to stream through the translucent floors of the stairwell and cast reflections off of the water below.’ The carbon fibre structure appears to float above a small pool of water, at the main entrance to the complex building. This aesthetic addition brings together the central themes of communication and circulation by providing a function for the orb inside and out.