March 19, 2004
Rediscover Rackham celebration features "West Wing" actress
*NOTE: A performance by actress Anna Deavere Smith in Rackham Auditorium at the University of Michigan has been cancelled due to illness. However, the event, part of a two-day Rediscover Rackham celebration, will occur—with a different speaker—at the same date, time and place. It is free and open to the public. More >
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A recently restored architectural treasure on the University of Michigan campus opens its doors to the public April 1, providing an opportunity to see the bold colors and intricate details that have emerged during a four-year, $27 million restoration and renovation.
The public can rediscover the beauty of Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 915 E. Washington, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. April 1. That evening, actress, author, playwright, professor and scholar Anna Deavere Smith will speak at 7 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium. The event is free of charge.
Smith plays the national security adviser on the NBC series "The West Wing," and is author of the book "Talk to Me: Travels in Media & Politics," playwright of "Twilight: Los Angeles 1992" and a member of the faculty at New York University. She will explore the complexities of diversity in America through character performances. Her piece is entitled "Snapshots: Portraits of America in Change." Smith was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship for creating a "new form of theater—a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie."
Earl Lewis, dean of the graduate school, noted that Rackham is particularly significant because it was the first building in the U.S. built specifically for graduate education. Playing host to hundreds of events each year, the copper-roofed limestone building is also a cherished public space. And Lewis says that Rackham's elegant design prompts many to hail it as one of the most impressive buildings on campus.
"There's a real sense that people identify with the character, the quality of the building," Lewis said. "We see this as an architectural jewel of the campus. The restoration puts the Rackham Graduate School in a better position to serve the university's graduate students and faculty, the community, and the cause of graduate education worldwide."
The massive restoration project—the first since the building opened in 1938—returns the interior to an approximation of its original beauty. The gray lobby walls are now warm gold, the Reading Room was cleaned and received a fresh coat of paint, both the East Lounge and West Study Lounge have new carpet and draperies, and the meeting rooms on the fourth floor are newly carpeted, draped, painted, and the wood paneling was reconditioned.
Perhaps even more important than the aesthetic improvements have been the renovations to Rackham's infrastructure. New air handling, plumbing, and electrical systems were installed, as were fire suppression and safety upgrades. The original elevators were replaced and elevator stops added to make all floors accessible. The technical improvements include a new audio-visual system and drop-down screen in the Amphitheatre. The Assembly Hall was improved with an acoustical ceiling, wireless connectivity and audio-visual system and the East Lounge was equipped with wireless connectivity.
The first phase of the project started in the spring of 2000, focusing on exterior work to address such problems as interior leaks. New office windows were installed to improve energy efficiency. The Rackham staff relocated to temporary space off campus for 22 months while the interior work proceeded.
Throughout the project, the design and intent of the building's original architect, William Kapp, led the efforts of the architects and designers.
Additional information is available on-line at http://www.rackham.umich.edu/Events/redisc.html .
Contact: Joel Seguine
Contact: Lynne Dumas