Non-Traditional Seating that Challenges Students

The lobby windows of UC Berkeley’s Wurster Hall look out on a gorgeous courtyard. When we partnered with Raveevarn Choksombatchai of VeeV Design to reimagine the lobby’s sitting area, we wanted to highlight the view while showcasing non-traditional construction methods. Wurster Hall houses the School for Environmental Design where students are challenged to consider how the built environment can affect a person’s day-to-day life. Perhaps a unique approach to a study spot would inspire future architects to wonder, “What else is possible?”

The space included existing concrete pillars that jutted out from the wall at regular intervals. We liked the idea of having the counter kind of swerve around the concrete pillars. Inspired by bamboo blowing in the wind, we wanted the steel legs of the counter and stools to have different angles to give a subtle impression of movement.

As with all of our projects, we created detailed drawings to inform the fabrication and prefabricated all elements before arriving to install.

To create the unique angular joint between the two levels of the counter, we had to commission a custom router bit for our CNC router. This angular joint is only on one side of the counter; the two counters are not connected at all at the other end. Unsupported, the counter wanted to snap in two. To transport it to the location, we had to support the counter with block spacers, wrap it tightly, and think good thoughts.

While each of the uprights is pointing in a different direction, they all have the same angle, giving a sense of uniformity to the chaos. In order to ensure we could affix the table as planned, we needed to orient and drill the uprights into the concrete perfectly. But floors are not flat; we ran a laser to find the highest point. Every other upright would require one or more circular shims to allow the counter to be perfectly level.

The two-level counters give students a place to stash their coffee, sandwich, or notes. A few of the upright pipes actually pass through the bottom counter before affixing to the top counter. That part was especially tricky: we had to engineer the holes so they were big enough to allow us to put the counter together, but small enough so there wasn’t a large gap around the pipe.

An ADA compliant workspace makes a more inclusive environment.