The design task was to reimagine interpretive opportunities specifically with historical sites in Boulder. Ditching the traditional signage and designing informational opportunities through effective methods of engagement and interaction. The historical site of Norlin Quad on campus has opportunities to reimagine how to activate Norlin Quad to daily commuters such as students, faculty, and visitors. There was a story to tell.

In 1904, the law students protested their harsh seating conditions of monolithic wooden benches and eventually got better seating by using their voice. This story resonates because it empowers students and communicates they can make changes on campus and beyond. Given freedom on design solutions, the standard bench form was manipulated to reflect the idea of student empowerment with uncomfortable seating, dramatically represented by five abstract forms.

  • Hard wood planks influenced the uneven form
  • Large chairs influenced the concave form
  • ENVD stools influenced the convex form
  • Outdoor metal benches influenced the lattice form
  • Old lumpy seat cushions influenced the bumpy form

Limited text attached to the design offers opportunities for users to respond to the design installation. A QR code directs them to a website with a google form and further information about the design process, law bench story, and other hidden stories on campus. The parametric construction method expresses the law bench story and empathy for the students. The abstract textures evolved to be more subtle and cohesive. With this construction method, textures connected with the intention of them being continuous.

Construction Process

  • Drafting in 3D space with Rhino
  • CNC machine etching / cutting plywood sheets
  • Manually cutting, sanding, and staining each plywood panel and spacer (72 panels, 400 spacers)
  • Inserting steel rods into plywood panels with spacers in between panels
  • Attaching acorn nuts to the ends of steel rods to eliminate possible scratching/injury on users
  • Attaching acrylic signage with QR code

The design installation, Empowerment, visually communicates the literal representation of the law bench
story. The bench has seventy-two panels with varying spaces in between each of the five textures to
demonstrate how each individual student came together and made changes to their seating. The design
intention is to communicate to other students, faculty, and visitors that they too can empower themselves
and the people around them by expressing their voice through activism.