The Design Graveyard: Environmental Sculpture


In most of the studio courses I’ve taken, the professor assigns a smaller preliminary assignment as sort of a warm-up for the main event. In my fourth and final undergraduate studio we were assigned the task of designing environmental sculpture on the site we would later use for the design of an Olympic training center. While the Olympic training center now has a prominent place in my portfolio, the environmental sculpture has been gathering virtual dust on my hard drive. So I thought I’d share:

Since I had spent nearly 4 years studying architecture at the time I was taking on this project, the architectural design process had become hard-wired into my brain. I found creating things simply for artistic value somewhat difficult and ended up treating this sculpture more like architecture (sketches, diagrams, renderings… the whole nine yards!).

day diagrams

1a: The site we were assigned had two main paths that bordered it. One path ran directly adjacent to the Boulder Creek and was covered in trees. The other was pushed right up against a rather busy road which was very loud. Creek=Good. Road=Bad.

1b: The tree-cover of the creek path was abstracted into rings.

1c: These rings were then applied to the busy street to provide shade and sound insulation.

day renders

While the rings were of a standard size, the spacing was determined by the path’s distance from the noisy road. When the sidewalk neared the road, the rings became more dense to eliminate undesirable views and decrease traffic related sound. As the sidewalk moved away from the street the rings opened up to allow travelers to enjoy the surrounding nature.

dark diagrams

2a: The other problem identified with the site was the lack of night lighting. While the majority of the paths along the creek were lit by street lights, this site was pitch black and became a frightening place to be at night. Especially because I’m still afraid of the dark…

2b: To combat the frightful night, the rings were designed to illuminate the path and the nearby surroundings. This little tunnel of light created a sense of safety.


To transform this project from sculpture to attraction, the lights in the rings were designed to react to the passing cars by sending waves of changing colors alongside the nearby automobiles.

site night

Eventually this project would evolve into the fiber-optic infused trees that littered the site of the Olympic training center.

tree grove idea 1

While both incarnations of this project were included in my Studio 4 book: Internal Conversation, I still would love to see the real-world manifestation of these rings in the landscape. Could you imagine the sounds passing cars would make as their rumbling engines are diffused by a dense screen? Or how fun it would be to ride your bike through the light tunnel at night?

Or how expensive it would be to construct such a silly little project…

Design Work


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