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Diag Sensibilities

By | Norm's Author Blog

What should we do on a lovely autumn evening after dinner? This question often leads us to interesting encounters at the Diag. Students are always out recruiting participation in various causes with tables and chalk and amplified speakers. Although we see ourselves as outsiders, we feel welcome. Choosing a seat on an empty stone bench, we watch the stories unfold in front of us like movies on a very wide screen. Two anecdotes are worth sharing.

One evening we encountered a peaceful protest, and we happened to sit between two students who were similarly intrigued. On my right was a young man from China, and on Norm’s left was a young man from Pakistan. They sought a relaxed conversation, in English, with Americans who were not part of the University. Although we engaged in separate conversations, neither of us talked about politics or academics. We encouraged them to grab every opportunity during their time in Ann Arbor. Eventually, we left the Diag and walked home, feeling good about our casual conversations.

On another evening, we walked over to the Diag to see who and what were on display. We stopped at a table promoting the Michigan and State theaters, curious about why they were there. The volunteers hoped to engage with students and encourage attendance at our beloved historic theaters. They even offered free popcorn. What caught my eye, though, was their t-shirts. I loved the new design with both theaters rendered architecturally and advertising features “coming soon” to both theaters. I took their picture, and asked how I could get one of these t-shirts. It would take a special request, but they said I could pick one up at the member service counter inside the Michigan Theater. Later I posted this photo on Facebook.

The story continues. I posted the Diag photo on Facebook to share the encounter. I am “friends” with Zach Evans, son of David Evans, my former partner and founder of Quinn Evans Architects, who was instrumental in restoring the Michigan Theater almost 40 years ago. Zach had grown up in Ann Arbor and he knew this theater intimately. He graduated from the UM Film Department and has pursued a film career in Los Angeles. Zach never lost contact with the theater, and unbeknownst to me, he had accumulated a vast collection of Michigan Theater memorabilia. My photo on Facebook resulted in an inquiry about this newest item that he coveted for his collection. Tout suite, the Michigan Theater staff popped one in the mail to Zach.

When I wear my t-shirt, I savor my memories about the Michigan and State theaters. I associate it with yet another serendipitous experience on the Diag, and hope for many more such experiences in the future.

Oliver’s Tales: introducing Ilene’s newest writing project

By | Ilene and Oliver's Tales

Hello! My name is Oliver! I like the sound of my name. It gives me an identity as a unique individual, even if it was the most popular name for cats in 2020, the year I was born. I don’t know where I was born or where I lived for the first nine weeks of my life. I think I had a littermate, but even he or she is but a distant memory. I came into this world with my eyes open when I was brought to the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). Those are my first memories. Before that is a blur of being cared for but without a feeling of permanence. My eyes were facing forward, watching, waiting, hoping to be adopted into a forever home.

After my surgery and vaccinations and arbitrary naming at the Humane Society, I did not have long to wait. My cage was placed right next to the information counter, as the first cage visitors see when entering the area of pets up for adoption. Being first, was not such an advantage, however, as it was too easy for visitors to walk right by to reach the middle of all those other cages and pet rooms and then the dog area at the back. I would need to do something about that. An older couple arrived just as the Humane Society opened, having decided to consider adopting, but wanting to stay as far away from other people as possible. I understood that we were in the midst of a pandemic, and everyone was skittish about meeting with others. They thought they would adopt an older cat, perhaps one with special needs, but had neglected to consider their own personal gut feelings about bonding with a cat destined to be theirs. I raised up my head to watch them walk by my cage, completely unaware that I was their soulmate tucked inside.

Just then a little girl and her mother showed up. The little girl asked to meet me, and one of the kindly volunteers wrapped me up in a towel, removed me from my cage, and placed me in her arms. She was sweet and careful with me, but we didn’t bond. No chemistry there, and eventually she gave me back to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. She and her mother moved on to look at other kittens.

That was my chance! I meowed just a tiny meow, as I was still pretty tiny myself. The older couple, who were at the counter filling out papers and trying to decide on adoption of a troubled long-haired ginger one-year-old with “litter issues.” I could see they were hesitant and concerned about something related to the house they lived in, but I could not understand. What I did notice, however, is that they were fixated on having a ginger tabby but were hesitant about the long hair. I looked at my paws and my chest below my chin and saw that I was lightly gingered, more tawny, and definitely short-haired.

Whoa! Those are my people! Stop the presses! Look at me, look at me! I’m here, and I choose you to adopt me!

After sitting patiently on a bench near the entrance, within eyesight of my cage, they watched the little girl return me to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. Peeking through the bars, I could just see them at the information counter where all the adoption business is carried out. My future people walked back to the counter, cancelled the other fluffy cat, and asked to meet me. Me!!! Yes!

Agonizingly slowly, the volunteer first went to find the little girl to ask her if it was okay if I could be introduced to other people, and thankfully she agreed. She said she only wanted me to have a good home with people who loved me. Smart girl and very generous.

Woohoo! I am now pacing back and forth in my cage. Will they like me? Will they accept me? Will they take me home with them? So, again, I went through the ritual of the towel and the hug – ugh! I do not like hugs, though I tolerate them when necessary! – and the decision to adopt by the right people was consummated. The rest is history, my history, shared with you, my friends and fans, in the following pages of this book.

Historic Preservation: Expanding the Definition

By | Uncategorized
In his book titled Why Do Old Places MatterTom Mayes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation described what we mean by historic preservation by articulating continuity, memory, and identity as reasons we preserve. Continuity extends our cultural and physical heritage from the past to the present, and into the future; memory gives this continuity a cultural imperative; and identity brings not only memory but meaning to the places we preserve.The words “historic preservation” are institutionalized in our organizations, associations, national legislation, and in numerous university programs—e.g., National Trust for Historic Preservation, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, and numerous university “Historic Preservation” degree programs, such as the one offered at Eastern Michigan University.

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Emerging Leader in Historic Preservation

By | Uncategorized

Two years ago we invited Sarah Marsom to join us on our journey to update our Historic Preservation book for its 3rd edition, published by W.W. Norton. We were rewarded many times over by Sarah’s enthusiasm and dedication to the effort and her willingness to put in time to meet with us, to read various updated sections, and to contribute essential insights on the emerging trends in the field as they applied to young preservationists.

Now, in turn, we celebrate that her initiative and accomplishments were recently recognized at the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Sarah was individually awarded the American Express Aspire Award, as well as being an honoree for the inaugural “40 Under 40: People Saving Places,” given to emerging leaders in the field of preservation.

If you want to know more about Sarah, here is a link to her announcement:

Book Signing in Buffalo

By | Uncategorized

The Third Edition of our Historic Preservation book’s pre-release at the annual conference of the Association for Preservation Technology was a veritable celebration for Ted Ligibel, Ilene and Norm, as well as our assistant, Sarah Marsom. We signed every copy as it was sold to a variety of preservation professionals., and were particularly pleased to sell copies to Joe Quintana, from the Guam Preservation Trust, who wanted to share it with his fellow preservationists in the South Pacific. Other books went to practitioners from around the United States and Canada, as well as to our former students. We thank them for believing in us and in the value to them of this new edition.

Note the four of us were proudly sporting pins with an image of the book’s cover. This elicited additional interest from individuals who either lived in St. Louis, where the photo was taken, and those who had worked with Ilene on restoration of the Old Courthouse featured in the photo.

We also were pleased that over 50 individuals have subscribed to our Authors Blog in the last week or two. Stay tuned for more stories on our adventures in writing and publishing.

Chaloner Building tour and consultation

By | News | No Comments

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

By | News

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.”

University of Michigan Board of Governors Meeting

By | News | One Comment

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.

University of Michigan Master Planning

By | Uncategorized

A Conversation with Sue Gott…

Thursday, May 9, 2016

During my one-hour meeting with Sue Gott and Jim Kosteva, I gained an understanding of the University’s priorities for development of sites they currently own on all five of their Ann Arbor campuses. I also learned that they are working off 8 and 9-year-old planning documents for the medical and north campus, and have no working plans for central or athletic campuses. That’s not to say they do not plan, because they do. General goals are to consider sites that are vacant, properties that are in poor conditions, and opportunities to achieve greater density as part of responsible stewardship of their property.

Philosophical goals that guide University decision-making regarding property use, and that were listed in the North Campus Master Plan Update of 2008, are:

  1. Create strong connections, within and at the edges of the campus,
  2. Promote campus vitality, and a quality experience for everyone,
  3. Optimize development capacity, and
  4. Respect and incorporate environmental features.

Beyond that, specifics are hard to come by. Looking at site plans for all of these areas, no sites jumped out as earmarked for changes that would generate alarm in the preservation community, although that is often in the eye of the beholder. On central campus, most sensitive to preservationists, Ruthven is intact, the Arthur Miller House (439 S. Division St.) is visible next to ISR, and there is no infringement into the Martha Cook garden, protected by a legacy donation.

State Street, north side, south of E. William St.

State Street, north side, south of E. William St.

When we looked at a larger scale map of State Street, however, I noticed a yellow circle in the lawn area in front of Betsy Barbour and Helen Newberry dormitories. What the University is considering, at this early stage of discussion, is building something for Trotter House on central campus closer to a hub of student activity than they currently are on Washtenaw Avenue. This is viewed as a potential site for development, regardless of the integrity of the original dormitories having or needing a front lawn. No timetable was given, but this seems to be something to watch out for.

Summertime at the manse…

By | Uncategorized

Maintenance done together is better than toiling alone. After a year of waiting for the fabrication of a new torus base for column #1, we were finally ready to complete minor filling, sanding, cleaning, and painting of all four column bases at the front porch. While we all hope our maintenance projects stay “maintained,” it doesn’t happen that way. Maintenance is ongoing and requires vigilance in some cases to avoid spiraling out of control. Our columns are that kind of albatross, if you will, that always need attention and treatment. So, we are in another final round of care that should buy us a year or two of simpler monitoring and enjoyment without excessive work. We shall see…

Four column bases, 2016

Four column bases, 2016