U.S. Port of Entry, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Program: United States Border Station
Status: Complete, 2006
Photography: © Hedrich Blessing, Jon Miller
Selected Recognition: 2000 General Services Administration, Design Award, “On the Boards.” National Building Museum, “Federal Design Now”, Exhibit, 2001. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, “Material Evidence: Chicago Architecture at 2000” Exhibit, 2000. Alex Frangos, “Border Patrol’s New Look”, The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2004.

The Sault St. Marie Port of Entry is located in a remote, harsh climate, in the 5th snowiest city in the US. The project sought to expand the existing Border Station to accommodate the increased traffic of people and goods. Major design goals included an operational building, 24/7 and phased construction that allowed for secure, uninterrupted service. A small, severely sloped and restricted site was the only build able area available and the design solution had to incorporate multiple levels of roadway to accommodate traffic. The turning radius of a tractor trailer determined the curve of the lower inspection lanes, while the proportionately smaller navigational requirements of the automobile shape the upper plaza. Upon approaching the plaza, the translucent inspection canopies provide a luminescent gateway into the United States.  Copper and native stone are used throughout to anchor the building recalling the rich natural resources of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sustainable design initiatives include high performance glazing system, a narrow footprint, and an aggressive daylighting strategy.