Campus News

Hallway HVAC becomes innovative seating

Hand manipulating model of transforming bench concept.

A working model of the winning Inflection transforming bench concept. Image courtesy of the Inflection team

By CHARLES WINGFELDER

Published September 24, 2018

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How should school administrators respond when students continue to sit on HVAC equipment in a newly refurbished building?

Administrators in the School of Architecture and Planning viewed this trend as an unintentional identification of natural gathering places, and launched a design competition inviting students to reimagine the units as sites for impromptu social gatherings.

The two winning concepts of the “Benches” competition will transform spaces at the main stair landings on the second and third floors of 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 in the school that encourages student and faculty to further beautify 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.”

Photorealistic rendering of winning Inflection bench concept showing a group of people sitting in conversation and one person manipulating the bench into it's higher position.

A photorealistic rendering of the winning Inflection bench concept showing a group of people sitting in conversation and one person manipulating the bench into its higher position. Photo courtesy of the Inflection team

Inflection Gallery

The first design-build competition solicited design solutions for the typically utilitarian mail room facilities, and produced a colorful installation of inscribed terra cotta cubbies in place of a banal wall of metal lock boxes.

In the latest “Benches” competition, an innovative folding mechanism allows one of the winning concepts, “Inflection,” to transform benches into tables, depending on the needs of the user or the activity occurring in the space. The jury selected the design because it encourages place-making and social interaction, effectively hides the HVAC units and orients users toward the windows.

The concept was developed by students Kalyn Faller (BS Arch ‘18), Elizabeth Gilman (BS Arch ‘18), Michael Paraszczak (BS Arch 17) and Gavin Reeb (BS Arch ‘18), along with faculty adviser Daniel Vrana.

Photorealistic rendering of winning Transformable Shells bench concept. Image courtesy of the Transformable Shells Team.

A photorealistic rendering of the winning Transformable Shells bench concept. Image courtesy of the Transformable Shells team

Transformable Shells Gallery

The other winning concept, “Transformable Shells,” also was 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 school’s Facilities Design Committee, which includes architecture faculty members Jin Young Song, Laura Garofalo, Matthew Hume and Georg Rafailidis. The jury that 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.

Photorealistic rendering of winning Reflection bench concept showing people siting and looking out the window. Image courtesy of the Reflection team.

A photorealistic rendering of the Reflection bench concept showing people siting and looking out the window. Image courtesy of the Reflection team

An honorable mention was awarded to “Reflections,” a concept that made use of abundant light in the spaces to reflect written passages engraved on the bottom of reused granite slabs off the polished terrazzo floors.

Photorealistic rendering of winning With the Flow bench concept showing people siting and looking out the window. Image courtesy of With the Flow team.

A photorealistic rendering of the With the Flow bench concept showing people siting and looking out the window. Image courtesy of With the Flow team

Another honorable mention was given 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 and learning landscapes on the second and third floors of Hayes Hall.