Remaking the Wooden WaterfallSpring 2015
As a final project for Designing Resources for Empowerment and Making, Aaron, Heather, and I wanted to transform an unused space on campus into a place where students would go to study or host small events. Upon considering our options, we quickly realized the potential of the Wooden Waterfall area, a space in the Campus Center by the dining hall. When Olin was created, the Wooden Waterfall was envisioned as a place for students to hang out, but it is used only a few times a year for class photos and as a gathering place in the case of emergency.
We wanted to revamp the Wooden Waterfall into a comfortable space where students could spend time outside of class and host small events. The seating at the bottom of the waterfall could be used as work space, while the big steps could serve as additional seating for movies and performances that take place in the front open area.The poor ergonomics and acoustics caused by the many large, hard, and flat surfaces proved to be some of the most difficult challenges.
Testing the Waters
To test if students would use a remade Wooden Waterfall space, we hosted a TED Talk viewing event there, featuring talks about innovation, creativity, and making. We hung large pieces of fabric on the wall and over the Wooden Waterfall to improve the acoustics, and we also filled the large steps with rugs, blankets, couches, and cushions. Although we eventually want to have more permanent installations, we went with more impromptu furniture for the first trial run. This allowed us to test the space and the acoustics for showing media while spending very little money.
Roughly 10-15 people showed up to the event, and we received a lot of positive feedback about the comfiness of the seating and the potential for smaller movie showings or performances in the space. People also mentioned that they liked the reverberating acoustics and that the lighting could be improved. With the amount of fabric and furniture we used, there was an audible improvement in the acoustics, which we had not managed to verify when performing tests with only one or two pieces of fabric at a time. Overall, we received a lot of positive and constructive feedback that will be useful moving forward with another event, such as an open mic, in the Wooden Waterfall.
Based on the positive feedback from the TED Talk viewing test event, the next step would be to more permanently remake the Wooden Waterfall. Aaron and I have talked to Facilities about implementing improvements that are written up in a formal proposal. We hope that these rennovations can be completed, allowing students to take advantage of a currently unused space.