Most Wayne State students have had at least one class in State Hall since it opened in 1947. But thanks to a $70 million renovation, many of those students might not recognize the building when it reopens in fall 2023.
The fully renovated State Hall will feature new classrooms, lecture halls, meeting and lounge spaces, a reflection room, lactation room, and all-gender restrooms.
“We're going to use this building as our model going forward for how we want to think about classroom spaces,” said Ashley Flintoff, director of planning and space management at Wayne State. “We wanted to respond to the needs of students, faculty and staff, now and moving forward. So, we're doing things like adding in power. Previously, most classrooms only had two outlets — one in the front, one in the back. There'll be outlets everywhere throughout this building.
“We really tried to focus on flexibility and making the spaces able to respond to the needs of faculty and students as we move forward. We really tried to think about all of the different ways that professors might want to teach. They might want to do the more traditional classroom setup, and we have rooms that that can do that beautifully. But if they want to test out active learning or flexible classrooms — or all of these different ways of teaching or maybe even some that haven't even been thought about yet — we will have classrooms that can do that.”
Approximately 73% of Wayne State students use State Hall each semester, and more than 90% of students have at least one class in State Hall before they graduate. Every school and college at Wayne State has used the building.
The building is very important to many people on campus, so Flintoff and her team met with faculty and students to see what they wanted in the building before beginning the renovations.
“We did quite a bit of listening before we began, and during the design process, we had focus groups,” Flintoff said. “We had an advisory group made of up of students and academic staff. That advisory group was with us through the entire design process. In addition to all the study spaces and collaboration spaces outside of the classroom, we have the all-gender restrooms that are going to be on each floor. We have a reflection room on the first floor that was actually designed in partnership with students. Both the Student Senate and Muslim Student Association helped us design that and it will have a foot bath, in addition to the reflection spaces. We really did try to listen to what students and faculty and staff were telling us and what they wanted to see in a renovated State Hall and then wherever feasible, we tried to add in those features or amenities.”
State Hall’s classrooms will have hybrid capability, but some of the technology won’t be available immediately upon opening in fall 2023 due to the amount of items ordered and the long lead time required to receive and install it. The plan is to install the technology as it comes in.
State Hall is a classroom building first, but the goal was to give students the ability to spend time there outside of classes.
“There will be student lounge and gathering spaces, and collaboration spaces,” Flintoff said. “C&IT is going to have some space on the fourth floor. They will be embedded in the building in case people have issues or concerns or need help with the technology or with their computers. There's also a shower in the building and there will be bike racks, so if you're biking into class or campus and need to need to take a shower, that's available. We are really trying to think about all of the ways that people want to use a building beyond just going to class and leaving. We want them to spend time in this building. We want them to feel welcome in this building, so we really tried to think about the things you would need in order to feel welcome in there.”
Flintoff said a great deal of effort went into the decision to renovate State Hall rather demolish it. An analysis showed it would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to renovate the building.
“Something like 38% of the waste generated in the world comes from the construction industry,” Flintoff said. “As a sustainable steward of the earth, we want to try to reuse and reduce our waste as much as possible. It also goes beyond just reusing the building;, it goes into the systems and the materials that we're using and the ways that we’re designing the new building, so that there's a whole sustainability piece to it.”
State Hall is also important to alumni and has hosted many memorable moments in campus history, including a lecture by Malcolm X.
“State Hall has historical and architectural significance,” Flintoff said. "Suren Pilafian, who was the architect for State Hall, did seven buildings for the university and also did a master plan in 1946 and 47 for the university; he was a pretty prolific architect. In fact, you could say he was the most prolific on our campus because he has more buildings on our campus than any other architect. He was super influential in the way that we think about both campus planning as a whole, but also our spaces, as well as academic and libraries. So maintaining that history, maintaining that connection to this architect who was so influential and important to how our campus looks and feels today was really important to us. It's an iconic building. It's known to the majority of students who have come to the university since 1947.”
State Hall will many new features, but Flintoff has worked with Christman Company and SmithGroup, who is doing the renovations to also maintain many of the old architectural features.
“State Hall is a lovely example of early to mid-century modern architecture,” Flintoff said. “So there's a lot of really great architectural features, such as the large open communicating stairs, the large grand staircases that have space for you to kind of stop and communicate or meet with people. There's a lot of glass, a lot of daylight. There's the gorgeous terrazzo stone floors on the first floor in the hallways that we're maintaining. There's these beautiful architectural handrails throughout the building as well. So there's a lot of really beautiful moments and details in the building that we're trying to maintain.”
The renovated State Hall will also feature windows in the hallways and new exterior elements.
“We want to make those hallways seem less like these big, long, dark corridors to nowhere, so we're putting in what we call glazing or glass right along the hallways to allow for light to filter through from the outside walls into the classrooms or into the quarters through the classrooms,” Flintoff said. “We're completely redoing all of the glass on the Cass facade. We're replacing them with brand new windows that will have bird-safe patterns on them. We’re trying to think about that environmental stewardship that we have as an institution. There's going to be seating on the exterior as well. So, we're redoing the entrances to add more seating.
“State Hall is going to be awesome. It’s was time for it to get a little bit of a facelift. I think it's going be really exciting when it opens back up.”