Historic Ruthven Building will be renovated for classrooms, offices


The historic Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building will undergo its most significant renovation since originally constructed in 1928. The $150 million renovation project was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents.

Plans for the Ruthven project include the addition of approximately 100,000 square feet of new space for active-learning classrooms and auditoria and the renovation of 150,000 square feet of existing space.

The renovated space will accommodate dry laboratories and the university’s central administrative team now housed in the Fleming Administration Building.

“The Ruthven project provides us with an opportunity to create contemporary classroom space in a prime, Central Campus location while preserving and reusing a landmark building,” says Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer.  

Ruthven is located on the curve where Geddes Avenue becomes North University Avenue. The building is currently home to several units, including the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, as well as the Anthropology, Natural History, Paleontology and Zoology museums. 

With the completion of the nearby Biological Science Building, expected in the summer of 2018, most of the Ruthven occupants are planned to be relocated to the new building. The university’s central administration offices, currently housed in Fleming, would be relocated to Ruthven once the renovation is complete. Space also will be provided in Ruthven for Board of Regents meetings.  

Hegarty noted that the nearly 50-year-old Fleming Administration Building is in dire need of costly repairs, is functionally obsolete and occupies valuable space on Central Campus that is better suited for other purposes. “The benefits of retaining Fleming are far outweighed by the costs of renovation. The plan is to demolish the building,” he said.

Funding for the Ruthven project will be provided from investment proceeds. University officials will return to the regents at a future date to request authorization to appoint an architect and subsequently seek approval of a schematic design. 

Ruthven was designed by notable Detroit architect Albert Kahn in 1928. In 1968, the regents named the building after Alexander G. Ruthven, U-M’s seventh president.

Ruthven is one of a number of buildings on the U-M campus designed by Kahn, including Angell Hall, Burton Memorial Tower and Hill Auditorium.



  1. Sofia Merajver
    on December 9, 2016 at 5:02 am

    The article makes no mention of the fate of the Museum now housed in the Ruthven Building. Could you please expand on those plans?

    • Rick Fitzgerald
      on December 9, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Yes, the museums in Ruthven will move into new spaces in the Biological Science Building.

  2. R Smith
    on December 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Will there be an exhibit museum within the new Biological Sciences Building?

  3. David Bleckley
    on December 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I’m so happy to read this! The Museums Building is one of my favorites places on campus, and when I learned that the museums were moving to new facilities, I was concerned that Ruthven would be demolished. I’m glad to read that preservation is one of the goals of this project. The rotunda ceiling and staircase need to be enjoyed by future generations. Kudos to the Board of Regents on this decision!

  4. john copley
    on December 9, 2016 at 9:37 am

    what will become of the dioramas housed in the Ruthven ?

  5. susan wineberg
    on December 10, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    I’m thrilled that Ruthven will be restored and used for a wonderful purpose. However, I’m sad that the Fleming Building will be demolished. It is a distinctive work by Michigan’s Architect Laureate Alden Dow. Couldn’t another purpose be found it it? A gut rehab might make this function again and show that the University has sustainable practices regarding the built environment.

  6. Sharon Sundling
    on December 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    I, too, am concerned as to what will become of the dioramas. Fascinated as a child at the sight of them, I returned many times to absorb the information they imparted to me. They were one of the first exhibitions my sister and I viewed on our first visit to the Museum of Natural Science.when we were young children.. I heard that they were now outdated, but in my mind they were very informative and exciting to view. I have never forgotten the impact they made upon me….

  7. Pam Wilson
    on February 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

    I am happy that they will renovate the Ruthven building but sad that the general public will not be seeing the museum in this architectural gem; the public are not frequent visitors to the administrative offices.

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