Published August 13, 2018
How should school administration respond when students keep sitting on HVAC equipment in a newly refurbished building? The School of Architecture and Planning saw this trend as the unintentional identification of natural gathering places, and launched a design competition inviting students to reimagine the units as sites for impromptu social encounters.
The two winning concepts of the ‘Benches’ competition will transform circulation spaces at the main stair landings on the second and third floor in UB’s Hayes Hall with student and faculty designs that protect and sculpturally obscure climate control units, and can be manipulated to accommodate various activities.
The competition is part of a larger design-build initiative that involves student and faculty in the habitation of Hayes Hall following the historic structure’s major renovation, completed in 2016. The works that are selected in these competitions become part of the signature spaces of the building, and express the school’s tradition of research through making. The first design-build competition solicited design solutions for the typically utilitarian mail roomfacilities, and produced a colorful installation of inscribed terra cotta cubbies in place of a banal wall of metal lock boxes
An innovative folding mechanism allows the winning “Inflection” benches to transform into tables, depending on the needs of the user or the engagement occurring in the space. The jury selected the design because it encourages place-making and social interaction, effectively hides the HVAC units, and will orient users toward the windows. The concept was developed by Students Kalyn Faller (B.S. Arch ‘18), Elizabeth Gilman (B.S. Arch ‘18), Michael Paraszczak (B.S. Arch 17), and Gavin Reeb (B.S. Arch ‘18), along with faculty advisor Daniel Vrana.
The “Transformable Shells” concept, another winner, was also selected for the way it orients users toward the windows and for the way its simple form screens the HVAC unit without obstructing maintenance. Team members Joanne Tseng (MArch ‘18), Shen Gao (MArch ‘18), Ying Ting Chen (MArch ‘19), and faculty adviser Sara Hayashi, designed a series of identical rectangular forms to create Slinky-like appendages that bend around or away from the curved window openings to fit the desired seating configuration.
Seven teams submitted proposals for the competition organized by The Facilities Design Committee, which includes architecture faculty members Jin Young Song, Laura Garofalo, Matthew Hume and Georg Rafailidis. The jury who evaluated the concepts was made up of UB faculty and local practitioners, including: Roger Hubeli, Omar Khan, Danise Levine, Robert Shibley, Michael Tunkey, and Brad Wales.
An Honorable Mention was awarded to “Reflections,” a concept that made use of abundant light in these spaces to reflect written passages engraved on the bottom of reused granite slabs off the polished terrazzo floors.
An honorable mention was also awarded to “With the Flow,” a continuous undulating wood element that provides surfaces at several heights to accommodate sitting, standing, and leaning interactions.
The winning teams are working with Jon Spielman, owner of Spielman Fabrications, to build out their concepts, and plan to install the new ‘benches’ this fall. The next Design Build competition will aim to maximize the multiple functions of Living/Learning/Landscapes on the second and third floors of Hayes Hall.