Architecture students, wearing their safe-distancing devices, walk on the lawn in front of Hayes Hall.
The distancing devices served as an introduction to a core concept in architecture: the movement of the human body through space.
Architecture students test their safe-distancing devices in a series of random, patterned movements on the quad behind Hayes Hall.
Published October 16, 2020
A group of graduate architecture students recently gathered on the South Campus in graceful dance — all at a safe distance — as they tested out their creations in wearable, spatial distancing devices.
From a shoulder-slung hula hoop to a protruding beak hat, the distancing devices served as an introduction to a core concept in architecture: the movement of the human body through space.
Of course, the study of “proxemics,” which considers personal space in relationship to the built environment and cultural norms, takes on a whole new meaning in the world of COVID-19.
Joyce Hwang, associate professor and associate chair of architecture, designed the assignment for a first-year graduate architecture course that develops students’ skills in architectural representation through visualization and fabrication.
“Understanding human scale, proximities and spatial relationships are critical to architectural exploration,” says Hwang, who is co-teaching with adjunct instructor Surabhi Dhopeshwarkar. “The spatial-distancing devices assignment was a way to encourage first-year graduate students to confront these conditions in a palpable way. In the context of the current pandemic, the idea of physical presence and proxemics has become especially poignant.”
Challenged to create comfortable, wearable devices that help users maintain six feet of separation, students experimented with materials and design on and around the human body. Design concepts shaped by current and historical precedents in wearable architecture evolved from graphic models to fabricated assemblies through a series of in-class critiques.
Their ideas manifested in a multitude of methods and materials that keep a safe distance. Consider “The Beak,” by Jackson Gaylord. Constructed out of trace paper and wood, the head gear was inspired by beaked masks doctors wore in 17th-century England to protect themselves from the Black Plague.
Victoria Gutierrez’s Umbrella Coat fits neatly over the shoulders and opens at the hips into a umbrella-like skirt. Flexible tent poles were inserted into eight triangular sections around the coat to create a six-foot-diameter seam.
The Socially Distant Tutu, by Ioanna Dinoulis, weaves hundreds of multicolored threads through a hoop of PVC pipe to create a skirt that hangs from the shoulders in a kaleidoscope of color.
Donning their wearable architecture, students tested their devices in a series of random, patterned movements orchestrated in the quad behind Hayes Hall.