Meet the T + E + A + M architecture studio, shaking up its domain

T + E + A + M Brings Practical Overhaul to Ann Arbor and Beyond

The American Midwest has turned the world of architecture upside down. Profiled as part of our Next Generation 2022 project, T + E + A + M, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is among the emerging practices pioneering change

The four co-founders of Ann Arbor-based firm T + E + A + M met as professors over ten years ago at the University of Michigan (UoM), where they all hold today . “We’re primarily design studio instructors, but we also teach courses in representation, digital literacy, fabrication and practice,” says co-director Ellie Abrons.

The quartet (Abrons and Adam Fure are a couple, as are Thom Moran and Meredith Miller) began collaborating informally soon after meeting at UoM in 2009, officially founding T + E + A + M in 2015. when they were selected to participate in the 2016 Exhibition for the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. T + E + A + M has never looked back, stepping up customer-centric work in recent years. New projects include 4 Over 4, a Detroit-based housing-focused research initiative using affordable construction techniques and typological variety.

T + E + A + M: Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure and Meredith Miller. Photography: Hugo Yu

Threads of T + E + A + M’s work include material reuse, digital and physical hybrids, and practical construction technologies. “In our early work, we frequently explored how digital and physical worlds can coexist. We think the boundaries between these worlds are incredibly blurry, and it’s a space that we play in as designers, ”says Abrons, who is also a commissioner on the City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission.

“We also have a commitment to the physical world as it exists, which often leads to the reuse of materials – from building components to post-consumer plastics – for new structures. Examples include a speculative proposal for a reassembly plant in Detroit (2016) and full-scale prototypes of sculptural columns made from salvaged construction debris.

Clastic Order

The co-founders say their focus on adapting the materials used is influenced by their geography. “Detroit, like many post-industrial American cities, is full of beautiful old buildings that have fallen into disrepair. It is common for these buildings to be refurbished, but we believe there are other approaches to consider when working with the existing building stock.

This thought process inspired Building in a Building, a new structure made up of standard modular components inserted into an existing neglected brick shell. The space between old and new structures serves as a venue for community events.

Ghost box. Photography: Bruce Damonte

“We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to combine recent construction technologies to build simpler, faster and more efficiently,” says Abrons, referring to Northwood ADU – a self-initiated Ann Arbor project for a “Additional housing unit”: an affordable and increasingly popular solution to the housing shortage in cities. “While ADUs alone do not solve the housing shortage problem, they play an important role in diversifying the available housing options. “

T + E + A + M used a prefabricated insulated foundation system – common in Scandinavia but less so in the Midwest – which allows the unit to be built directly on the ground rather than excavating, which increases costs , as well as pre-fabricated insulated panels that fit together like a puzzle. The result is a highly efficient airtight enclosure that dramatically reduces energy requirements. “These aren’t always the most glamorous things to consider,” says Abrons, “but with construction costs as high as they are now, architects need to innovate to make building more possible for more people.”

Render of housing concept 4 of 4

The team also believe the industry needs a radical overhaul to deal with the broader housing crisis across the United States: “This will require the construction industry and the real estate market to be more open. unconventional aesthetics, ”they say, doing Detroit credit. Philip Kafka and 2021 Lacaton & Vassal Pritzker Prize winner. §

ADU Northwood

Detroit reassembly plant

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