Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Kalamazoo, Michigan / United States of America

Racism, sexism, heterosexism, poverty, access, civil rights: many conversations about injustice begin in domestic spaces hidden from view— in someone’s living room, around a kitchen table, in a church basement. The college’s goal for the center is to focus on the work of social justice and train a new generation of leaders, bringing these conversations up from the basement and squarely into public consciousness.

A challenge for the architecture was how to respond to this desire for visibility and at the same time respect the diverse context of residential-scaled buildings nearby, including the traditional red-brick architecture of the college, the surrounding residential community, and a grove of hardwood trees.

The design addresses each vista with large transparent planes, allowing the work of the center to become visible.

Visually open and activated by daylight, the center’s flexible spaces create a home for seminars, gatherings, and conferences.

The building’s three distinct wings intersect at an informal meeting space at the central hearth.

Smaller meeting areas and individual workspaces surround the main assembly spaces.

Areas for the center's staff foster both solo and collaborative work.

The wood masonry exterior is a sustainable application of a heritage technique revived for the 21st century.

The proud architecture elevates the act of convening for social justice.

Architect of Record

Studio Gang Architects


Kalamazoo College

General Contractor

Miller-Davis Company


  • Thornton Tomasetti
  • Viridis Design Group
  • Diekema Hamann Engineering