Marlon Blackwell Architects - Marygrove Early Education Center, reflecting the vibrancy and energy of the young community
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Marygrove Early Education Center, reflecting the vibrancy and energy of the young community

Marlon Blackwell Architects

Education  /  Completed
Marlon Blackwell Architects

In the fall of 2018, The Kresge Foundation unveiled a new cradle-to-career educational partnership located on the campus of Marygrove College in the Livernois-McNichols district in northwest Detroit. Collectively known as the P-20 Partnership, the innovative education model features a new state-of-the-art early childhood education (ECE) center, K-12 school, and undergraduate and graduate studies opportunities. The new programs will extend the legacy of the Marygrove Campus as a beacon of educational value and augment the surrounding neighborhood revitalization efforts. The Marygrove Early Learning Center (Marygrove ELC) will be home to the new ECE programs and support up to 150 students ages birth through five years of age. The student population will be drawn from the local neighborhoods and is envisioned to reflect the diversity of the community. The Center’s program and design to supports the Provider’s whole-child focus, with spaces to support physical, intellectual, and social development. Additionally, a Parent Lounge and family-focused resources will extend the Provider’s two-generation approach to the child’s family, working to empower the guardian along with the child. The physical design of the Marygrove ELC reflects the aspirations set forth by the P-20 partners. Set just to the east of the Liberal Arts Building, a 4-story Tudor Gothic structure built in 1927 and the flagship building on the Marygrove Campus, the new Marygrove ELC seeks to establish a condition of resonance between old and new. The new one-story structure is low in profile but establishes a signature profile that is both deferential as one approaches and bold upon arrival. Polychromatic facade panels compliment the material weight and heft of the Marygrove ELC’s neighbors and tie the building back to the many historic masonry facades of Detroit through a progressive 21st century application of a traditional building material. Colorful highlights are interspersed throughout the façade providing a second layer of articulation to the system. The cladding in affect provides a “coat of many colors” reflecting the vibrancy and energy of the young users and diverse community activities within the building. Three courtyards introduce abundant natural light into the building and mark the journey from the building entrance to the classrooms. Each classroom looks out into the landscape with those at the south opening directly onto an existing, old-growth grove that is transformed into a large natural play space. A Gross Motor Room is situated at the heart of the building alongside of central courtyard. This ever-active space opens onto the Piazza, an internal child and family community space providing informal gathering space for school performances, meetings, or events. Adjacent to the building entrance, a Parent Lounge, Community Room, and Flex Space offer resources for families and the community of caregivers within the neighborhood. Additionally, dedicated mental and physical health therapy rooms will allow the Provider to extend critical support to the Center’s children and families. Through careful planning of the building’s program and design, the Marygrove ELC will serve as a framework in which families can find a safe, nurturing environment for their children to grow socially, physically, and intellectually. The structure and the programs within will offer a place where children can experience the rhythm of the days and seasons, inspiring their imaginations, empowering them to learn through play and creativity, and imparting dignity, grace, and joy to the children, families, and community the Center serves.


 United States
 Marygrove Conservancy
 2681 mq
 Marlon Blackwell Architects
 Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Meryati Johari Blackwell, AIA, Justin Hershberger, AIA, Mari McLeod, AIA, Stephen Reyenga, Colby Ritter, Callie Kesel, Leonardo Lieva Rivera
 Barton Malow Builders
 Peter Basso Associates, SDI Structures, Giffels Webster, Heirdun Hoppe Associates, Intoto Studio, Margie Ruddick Landscape, TM Light, Commtech Design, Studio NYL, McIntosh Group, Amy Baker Architect, Stephens-Bangs Associates
 Timothy Hursley


Marlon Blackwell Architects is an agile, full-service design firm located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our belief that architecture can happen anywhere, at any scale, at any budget - for anyone - drives us to challenge the conventions and models that often obscure other possibilities. We use an economy of means to deliver a maximum of meaning in places where architecture is often not expected to be found.

Established in 1992, Marlon Blackwell Architects is committed to the value of design. Led by Marlon Blackwell, selected recipient of the 2020 AIA Gold Medal, we have a successful history of generating and implementing visions for multi-scale projects throughout the country. In every instance, we strive to express the richness of the places we work and the ideals of the people and institutions we serve.

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