Published July 11, 2017
A colorful set of wooden cubes and cases is playing a key role in making the Hayes Hall atrium gallery a dynamic space for public events, exhibitions and even play.
Designed as a flexible system for display and seating, the 60 units have been stacked and arranged as mounting for student and professional exhibitions, and a landscape of colorful seating for receptions. It was even appropriated into an ensemble of instrument platforms for an impromptu concert.
Such versatility was exactly the intent of architecture faculty members Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, who designed the system as a flexible kit of parts that can be reconfigured into endless arrangements as easily as it can be stacked and stowed.
With research interests at the intersection of play and architecture, Jamrozik and Kempster also designed the system to create interruptions of playfulness in the visitor experience of the gallery space and the objects and situations within it.
Such a dynamic furthers the design motivations of the Hayes Hall restoration and renovation, which carved out the two-story atrium to create an open, day-lit space for interaction and public engagement. The gallery also features full-wall digital projections to create interplay between physical and digital representation.
“We wanted the system to have its own identity and character, but to be able to support the tone of the different exhibitions and become a backdrop for them. So flexibility is achieved through the modularity of the units and the way they can be reconfigured, but also in the way that the units can take on different surfaces,” says Jamrozik, assistant professor of architecture.
“We have been positively surprised with the transformation of the space that has been achieved thus far with every exhibit and hope that the display system encourages the faculty and students to think of ways of occupying the atrium space and displaying the work produced in the school in different ways,” she says.
The gallery set consists of three unit types between 5 and 10 cubic feet that can be used separately or combined to create surfaces for seating, displaying models or hanging drawings. Objects rest upon platforms of Corian in bright pastels of yellow, pink, blue, orange and green, while seating units are covered in wool felt. White oak framing provides earth tone contrast to the splashes of colored Corian. A number of units are left open to allow for stacking and hanging displays. Rare earth magnets create a clean system for affixing renderings, drawings and photographs onto powder-coated metal panels.
Jamrozik and Kempster worked with several local companies that supported the project with expertise, time and material donations. ATECH-SEH/Deronde, for example, provided technical feedback and worked through iterative mock-ups to perfect the metal joints. DuPont donated and cut to size the colorful sheets of Corian developed at its R&D lab in Tonawanda as part of the company’s research on color and composition possibilities for the material. These mismatched samples add both character and playfulness to the display system.
Among the system’s possible configurations are a landscape of units at varying stacked heights, and conjoined or individual vertical stacks for wall-mounted exhibits. The modularity of the units allows for any number of combinations to support the tone and tenor of an exhibition or event — from formal and austere, to random and playful.
Fabricated by students last summer and unveiled at the Hayes Hall grand reopening last fall, the system has been behind such events as the fall 2016 open studio for senior architecture students and an exhibition of drawings and completed works by Spanish architect Alberto Campo Baeza, the school’s 2017 Clarkson Chair in Architecture. The musical concert was a project of Banham Fellow Steven Chodoriwsky, who used the landscape of units as prop-ups for instruments and seating for musicians and guests.
Most recently, the system expanded with a series of cases and vitrines to support the gallery’s first traveling exhibit — “Wright’s Larkin” — which pays homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Larkin Administration Building and was installed as part of Buffalo’s celebration of Wright’s 150th birthday. As part of a design-build lab taught by faculty member Omar Khan, students fabricated 20 additional cases using the same framework and material — white oak — in different sizes and configurations. They also designed a new system of fasteners for Plexiglas casing and mounted a 25-foot simulacrum of the Larkin office interior using historic photos.
Looking ahead, the School of Architecture and Planning has formed a faculty-led curation committee to plan, organize and mount annual programs of exhibitions and installations in the gallery space.
Students who helped with the project include Tyler Gates, Kalyn Faller, Elizabeth Gilman, Shannon Riley, Ashley Chiffy, Thomas Mulligan, Dave Edwards, Allie Volungus, Lesley Loo, Kim Taracena, Julia Hunt, Bradley Davis and Femi Alege.
The exhibit system is one in a series of faculty-led design-build projects to engage school faculty and students in finishing their newly renovated home in Hayes Hall. Other projects include terra cotta faculty mailboxes designed and fabricated through a school-wide competition sponsored by Boston Valley Terra Cotta. Faculty and students also will program and design furnishings for living learning landscapes throughout the building.