Client: Washington University
Location: St. Louis, MO, United States
Completion date: 2016
Artwork budget: $21,000
Mackey Mitchell Architects
Over 2,400 SF of printed vinyl wall graphics wrap through a newly-renovated area of multi-discipline classrooms in Simon Hall at Washington University in St. Louis. We used walls with varying lengths (up to 120') in 5 separate locations, chosen to maximize visual and narrative impact. We chose historic images depicting well-known campus buildings or scenes, and interpreted them in a dynamic, vibrant graphic palate. The technique celebrates the static heritage of historic place, and simultaneously appeals to the kinetic, youthful energy of today’s students.
Washington University has a celebrated campus of classic and authentic Collegiate Gothic buildings and spaces. They have amassed an archive of thousands of campus images: buildings, vistas, rituals, and celebrations, a collection largely hidden from students, staff, and alumni. We were working to breathe new life into an existing undergraduate business building, with an inspired move to integrate an assortment of multi-discipline classrooms into the lower level, ensuring robust foot traffic at all hours. We needed to create an interior that could be as dense and energetic as the program of spaces, but without natural daylight, and on a modest budget. With the introduction of the new graphics, this circuit of corridors has become a vibrant visual story line, stimulating conversation and stirring contemplation among new students and seasoned faculty.
MMA was originally commissioned as the Architect for the building renovation, but then negotiated an additional services contract for in-house, commissioned artwork. This turned out to be an ideal integration, allowing us to consider locations for graphic artwork throughout all phases of the design process. Early coordination allowed us to keep wall surfaces clear of outlets, safety devices, and security cameras, ensuring a perfect canvas. Lighting, furniture, and general space planning were considered for visual impact of the featured wall graphics. Lead Architect and Designer worked closely throughout the renovation, shifting seamlessly into an Art Director/Artist relationship during the graphic conceptualization and production phases.
The Campus Architect and client committee were active in early concept development through final full-scale, color mock ups. Students, faculty and staff were invited to assist in concept development by sharing campus stories. The University’s Marketing department provided flexible color and style parameters to work within their newly-adopted brand standards. Archivists provided access and assistance in locating photography. The result: A fully integrated and collaborative design approach, reflected in the success of the visual impact and powerful story that adorn the walls.
A once-empty grid of hallways has been animated with iconic images of campus, woven into an energetic graphic patchwork. Engaged students wait for class surrounded by subtle but powerful visual narratives. This successful project clearly shows that with a thoughtful process and installation, simple wall graphics can transform a large collection of spaces, while remaining relatively inexpensive and very flexible for the long term.