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Building Tour: Ecology Center Part I

When people who know Ann Arbor talk about Ann Arbor, it’s rarely without inflection.   From enthusiastic embrace, to tongue-in-cheek irreverence, to exhaustion by its mouthy boisterousness, there is a wry acceptance of the ebullient character of this small college town.  She can feel like an all-chef/no-cook kitchen, but Ann Arbor wears her heart on her sleeve: you never have to guess what she’s thinking.  She speaks her mind and she takes her passions seriously.  As a town founded in the wilderness, named after its hallmark greenery, Ann Arbor has a long tradition of dedicated service to the environment.  Its recycling program is one of the most progressive in the country, its public transport is anchored on sustainable fuels, and it’s even home to a unique community festival celebrating the pursuit of net-zero-energy, -waste, and -water usage in homes and communities.

The Ecology Center, then, is arguably one of Ann Arbor’s most central institutions.  It is a bastion of advocacy and education, a resource hub for residents, non-profits, and businesses alike.  Located behind an unassuming storefront window, this organization is housed in a luminous space that mutely, but clearly, reflects its most deeply held values.   

Located on the third (top) floor of the Handicraft Building downtown and across from Liberty Plaza, one of the most activated public spaces in the city, the Ecology Center takes full advantage of its excellent site by pulling in views from the surrounding area as well as natural light from skylights liberally placed around the entire office.  Every Ecology Center employee has equal access to the light and views, rendering its effort to take healthy environments out of the “amenity” area and into “basic requirement” both explicit and highly successful.

Like the good citizen and neighbor it aspires to be, the Center collaborated with school and business neighbors to provide local work and enhance space’s quality even further.  Local furniture builders Ray Wetzel and the Carpenter Guy, as well as Professor John DeHoog’s furniture design class from nearby Eastern Michigan University, were invited to transform some of the lumber harvested from the demolition (and, thereby, diverted from the landfill) into custom, built-in, yet practical and sturdy furniture for the space. 

Coming soon

part II: The Functioning Space.  How does the Ecology Center walk its talk?
part III: The Finished Space.  It’s there and it works.  How does it feel?