Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Kalamazoo, Michigan / United States of America

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 design was how to make social justice leadership visible while respecting the scale and architecture of the college and the surrounding residential community.

Cordwood masonry was selected for the exterior—one of the first institutional applications of this traditional building technique.

The building process is collaborative, allowing people with a wide range of abilities to participate in construction.

The individuality of each log—with its unique shape, size, color, and growth pattern—reflects the diverse population the center serves.

Naturally insect-resistant Northern White Cedar was sourced locally.

The masonry and rigid and spray foam insulation provide a high-performance facade.

The wood masonry sequesters more carbon dioxide than is emitted in its production.

The delta between a cordwood masonry and conventional brick facade is equivalent to removing 10 cars from the road for a year.

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