The quarter-billion-dollar expansion of Michigan Stadium crowns Fielding Yost’s historic hole in the ground with eighty-three sky box suites and 3,000 club seats. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was the project that garnered the most vitriol.
John Mouat’s first reaction to the stadium renovation is nostalgia for the original Big House. “Twenty years ago, you barely knew it was there,” he recalls fondly. “You walked up to it and you didn’t really see anything. And then you entered it, and it was this huge bowl! It was really impressive—and unique.”
His own firm, Mitchell and Mouat, successfully combined traditional and modern elements in its designs for the Washtenaw County Administration Building and the Fourth and Washington parking structure. But remaking the stadium, Mouat says, was “a no-win situation. If it was radical, people would have fried them. If it was conservative, people would say they’re not radical enough. They’re trying to bridge that. Whether they’ll succeed, I don’t know.”
When it comes to the stadium, Mouat’s willingness to suspend judgment is as good as it gets. “It’s hideous, pompous, and pretentious,” says Carl Luckenbach, emphasizing each word. “It’s brutal monumentalism run rampant.” The architect of the Pittsfield and Malletts Creek branch libraries particularly deplores the “appalling pseudo-Colosseum archways on Main Street. You half expect Christians to be fed to the lions during halftime.”