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Japan Tour

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University of Michigan Alumni Tour of Japan

In October, Ilene and Norm joined with 22 other University of Michigan alums and friends on a 12-day tour of the highlights of Japan. One highlight of a tour filled with many highlights was viewing the Golden Temple, with exterior walls covered with gold leaf. The tour group traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto, seeing incredible temples, shrines, and gardens. However, Ilene felt the best part of the trip was the food, and now that we are home we are now adding Japanese cooking to our everyday menu.

American Planning Association Presentation

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American Planning Association Presentation

Norm was a member of a group of the College of Fellows presenting at the annual APA Conference in New York City. The topic was “The Role of the 21st Century Planner.” A packed room listened to discussion of how city planners could better adopt new ideas and technologies into practice. Other speakers were moderator Andrea Brown (APA Michigan Executive Director), Mitchell Silver (former APA president), Bruce Race (University of Houston), and Janet Ruggiero (California planner).

Included in the audience was Ilene with her Jane Jacobs doll. (Ask her about it.)

Chaloner Building tour and consultation

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A visit to the Chaloner Building in Adrian, Michigan gave Norm and I a chance to engage professionally with Mayor Jim Berryman, local historian ScottWestfall, and other local development team members about the potential and opportunities for rehabilitation of this building. Adrian’s streetscape is incredibly intact and holds great architectural interest for its diversity of styles. Flanking buildings from the same time period add to the challenges of isolating an initial project with room to grow.

Tour of the Chaloner Building

University of Michigan Power Plant Tour

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One of many buildings opened for tours this week, I chose this one, because I’m always up for a behind-the-scenes tour of raw power. We wore earplugs and safety glasses, and were told not to take photos. In a small group of seven, we were guided through the plant observing the noisy turbines and firing chambers and the eerily quiet command center. Three people monitor all of the controls for the entire system around the clock, and react quickly to power surges and outages. In the next couple of years, major upgrades are planned to simplify this process and allow a smoother response to interruptions of power.

The University is finding many ways to celebrate its Bicentennial and it seems only natural to enjoy as many of these as I can. While I’ve been fortunate to have explored many campus buildings in the course of my career, the Power Plant is one I’d never been inside, even though I’ve walked by many times. Asking if the central-campus location has proved to be an asset or a liability, our guide explained that the site was chosen in 1914 for its low elevation – steam rises, and condensate falls back to the plant. This is still true, of course, so the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Library Lot Proposal

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For many years the city of Ann Arbor has been discussing proposals for a new development on a key site in the downtown next to the city’s library. The current proposal is for a massive mixed-use structure with a plaza in front. Ilene and I wrote a letter to City Council expressing our concerns with the current design. We have attached the letter here as a pdf.

University of Michigan Board of Governors Meeting

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It has been a full agenda, beginning with a visit to Detroit for lunch at Hopcat, a curator-led tour of The Architectural Imagination exhibit at MOCAD, and an introduction to the ArcPrep program for high school students. After a respite back in Ann Arbor, several of us were honored to judge student projects on display at the architecture school. Now it’s time for our full day at the school…details to be shared later.