Bio-sciences building design blends research, teaching, museums


Plans for a new state-of-the art Biological Sciences Building took another step forward Thursday as the Board of Regents approved a schematic design.

The $261 million project will bring together the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, now housed in Kraus Hall and the Ruthven Museums Building.

The museums of Anthropology, Natural History, Paleontology and Zoology also will move into the new space.

“Our goal is to provide a first-rate research and teaching space that will enable our current faculty to do their best work, and to recruit and retain the nation’s top faculty and students,” said Andrew Martin, dean of LSA.

An architect’s drawing of the new Biological Sciences Building. (Drawing by SmithGroupJJR and Ennead Architects )

The 300,000-square-foot Biological Sciences Building will house the research laboratories, associated support functions, offices and classrooms of the two departments.

Laboratories within the building will be constructed in an open plan to allow for greater collaboration, increased flexibility and better space utilization. The new three-section building will be connected by two small glass atria. One atrium will serve as the lobby for the new Museum of Natural History. The design also will bring natural light into both office and lab spaces.

“The research problems being addressed now require groups of people with diverse backgrounds, talents and knowledge. The design provides multiple formal and informal interaction spaces throughout the building,” said Myron Campbell, associate dean for natural sciences. “The interaction spaces will facilitate groups, both within a single lab and across labs, to come together and discuss and work on problems.”

Visitors to the Museum of Natural History will be able to see and interact with exhibits representing university discoveries as well as learn about current and ongoing research efforts. Classrooms will allow students to interact with actual specimens and artifacts in the expansive museum collections, and will enable faculty to use the latest ideas in teaching.

“We are excited about the new opportunities this building offers to U-M students and faculty,” said Amy Harris, director of the Museum of Natural History. “Public programs and exhibits for all visitors will emphasize the visual and visceral ways we learn in museums. They will cultivate wonder, immerse and transport visitors, and engage them in participatory programs.”

The building will sit adjacent to the Life Sciences Institute where North Hall and the Museums Annex currently exist. Those buildings will be demolished. The new building also will have a connection to LSI to increase utilization of its dock, to allow for sharing of research spaces and equipment and to increase collaboration between LSA and LSI researchers.

In October 2013, regents approved a plan to relocate the Army, Naval and Air Force Officer Education programs from North Hall to the Chemistry Building and Ruthven.

Following the relocation of the departments into the new biology building — expected in 2019 — the university anticipates renovating Kraus for the School of Kinesiology and expansion space for the School of Information.

Once Kinesiology has been relocated to Kraus, the officer education programs will move into the current Kinesiology building with some additional space provided in the Central Campus Recreation Building.

Over the next several years, as this plan moves forward, the university will evaluate the future use of Ruthven based on university needs.

University officials expect the BSB project to take five years to complete construction and relocation of all departments.

Funding will be provided from LSA and Office of the Provost resources.  The architectural firm of SmithGroupJJR and Ennead Architects will design the project, which is expected to create up to 256 on-site construction jobs.



  1. Theodore Grenier
    on November 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Historic Ruthven should be preserved, and sensibly renovated. The interior of the front of the building is an architectural gem worth polishing. Perhaps the music school could utilize the structure or portions of it. Performing arts would do well there, as a central campus creative laboratory and public presentation space. Good proximity to League, Hill Auditorium, Power Center, Burton Tower.

    • Ian Trivers
      on December 1, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Agree – while it’s important to continue to expand facilities the University should be much more careful about squandering it’s architectural heritage. Why not refurbish Ruthven and attractively connect it to a less rote, placeless bland bland building built in the large empty space behind it? UM can do better than the above image would indicate.

  2. Sandra Regiani
    on December 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    This designs seems so far out of character with the rest of campus. Are we just creating the next generation of the UGLI here?

  3. Stephan Stephan
    on February 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  4. Mark O’Brien
    on February 26, 2015 at 9:27 am

    There is a glaring error in the BSB article. The Museums of Anthropology, Paleontology and Zoology are not moving into the building. A museum is not just people with the title of curator, it is the collection that makes it a museum. The research collections/museums are/will be at Varsity Drive, along with Collection Managers, support staff, some curators, and researchers.


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