FSU Federal Building

An architectural icon of west Michigan, the five-story Old Federal Courthouse and Post Office was built in 1913 and converted in 1980 to house the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The concrete and steel structure was known as Grand Rapids first “fireproof” building and is on the National Register of Historic Places. When the museum moved to a new building, the Old Federal Building sat essentially vacant, falling into disrepair and suffering interior damage.

Prior to acquiring the building for expansion of the Kendall College of Art and Design, the team performed an analysis for possible repurposing of the building. This began with a thorough evaluation of the physical condition of the building, programming and space planning to determine its feasibility for conversion to art studios, lecture halls, offices, and teaching spaces, and a comprehensive estimate of project cost. As a historic property, the team prioritized architectural elements of the building for restoration and modification. FSU approved a public-private agreement to finance the project, taking advantage of available historic tax credits.

All new mechanical and electrical systems are new and carefully integrated throughout the building. The roof was completely replaced, and original exterior wood windows were restored and refitted with insulating glass. Selected interior walls were removed to create larger studio spaces and to allow more natural light deep into the building. Once-covered skylights were reactivated, and original finishes and details in primary public areas were restored. The building is now barrier-free and equipped for 21st-century higher art and design education. It is also the home of the Wege Center for Sustainable Design.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Architect of record:

Tom’s role:
Principal-In-Charge at TowerPinkster

Date completed:

96,000 sq ft

2012 Adaptive Reuse Award by the Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance
2013 Michigan Governor’s Award for Preservation

Matthew Fowler