Please, have a seat

Latest Hayes Hall design competition transforms hallway HVAC into innovative seating

Hand manipulating model of transforming bench concept.

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

by Charles Wingfelder

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

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.

Photorealistic rendering of winning Inflection bench concept. Image courtesy of the Inflection team

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.

Photorealistic rendering of winning Transformable Shells bench concept showing people siting and looking out the window.

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

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.

Photorealistic rendering of reflection bench showing word reflecting off the polished floors.

Photorealistic rendering of winning 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 these spaces to reflect written passages engraved on the bottom of reused granite slabs off the polished terrazzo floors.

Photorealistic Rendering of With the Flow benches showing students sitting standing, and lounging at different heights of the long flowing bench.

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

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.