Seattle, Washington


LMN Culture


University of Washington College of Built Environments

Responding to the “Design Change” theme of the 2016 Seattle Design Festival, 26 teams created interactive pavilions for the 2-day Block Party held in Occidental Park, ranging from whimsical expressions of form and materiality, to experimentation with technology, to conversation starters about housing and environmental issues. Designers from LMN contributed 4 projects, each working in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of designers and builders. Below, Plamena Milusheva discusses the making of Grover — a disco kelp forest developed by 14 architecture and landscape architecture students in a design/build summer studio at the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, co-taught by Plamena and Professor Rob Corser. Also check out Kaleidosculpture, RainSound Experience, and REVOLUTION in this series.

Describe the concept of the piece in your own words.

The students started with an idea of a kelp forest that would invite the public to enter into an unexpected experience in the middle of Pioneer Square.  The most important aspect of the piece is that it is welcoming to the public, inviting them to engage with it by climbing, sitting, and rolling around on the Grovers. There was also a strong desire to make it reconfigurable and mobile so that it can cluster or spread out throughout the festival.

What was your favorite part of the project?

One of the most exciting parts of the project was the team fabrication process. At the end, when the students were in full production mode, things really started to come together in a great way.

What was the worst part, were you ever nervous putting this together?

Having a larger team developing the design presented some challenges at times, but in the end the ideas fell into place and the final installation was the reflection of a vision rooted in public engagement and interaction.

What is one thing you hope people get out of experiencing the installation?

The biggest hope for this installation was that people have fun with it, and they certainly did! Children in particular seemed to really enjoy the installation. Its scale lent itself especially well to their size and inclinations.

What will you take away from this process?

Designing for something that will engage with the public in a festival setting has very specific challenges in terms of how things need to be built and what elements require particular consideration.