The Art building, a place where creative minds feel like they are trapped in a prison.

Project by: Pisti Gamvroulas, Omar Tsai, and Jessica Huynh

The Brief 

The University of Utah's Art building, houses a variety of creative minds from different artistic disciplines. The brutalist architecture of the building has created a space full of industrial materials that work beautifully together. However, the space is dark and dungeon-like.  Along with this, the building lacks a wayfinding system, confusing new students and visitors trying to navigate the building. Lastly, the building is void of a cohesive graphic system that represents its creative inhabitants and their work. 

This project required me, and my fellow partners to create and propose a new EGD system for the art building. Our EGD system needed to include a wayfinding system, a placemaker, and the programming of our design throughout the entire building. 

Surveying the Dungeon

To begin our process, my team members and I spent time surveying the art building. We explored each floor of the building in great detail, going to spaces we often visit as students ourselves, traveling to spaces we were not familiar with. We thought about our first experiences in the building, and how overwhelmed and lost we felt in the dark building. We even invited friends that were not familiar with the building, to survey the space with us, and hear what their first impressions were, along with this, I surveyed art students that spend multiple days a week in the building, and I asked them how they felt the space could be improved. 

By conducting this survey were were able to find three major problems with the space that included, 

- An overall dark and dreary feeling in the building, many students and visitors felt that the art building felt "prison" like, with not much light throughout the building, and industrial materials that felt cold to some, this space is not inviting in anyway whatsoever. 

- A total lack of wayfinding, the building offers absolutely no directional signage, and no identifiable signage helping visitors understand what departments/offices are on each floor, and any other important studio spaces. 

- Lack of placemaking, the space does not represent its students in a cohesive or consistent way. For a building full of so many creative minds, you would not know that this space housed art students. Many spaces that could be utilized to represent its students are instead cluttered with materials from all over the campus. This lack of personality adds even more to the dark space, and many students believe the building itself is overwhelming and unenjoyable. 

Major Problems: 

There is absolutely no wayfinding system in the building.The building is full of long, dark hallways that look the same, causing confusion when trying to find specific rooms and areas. 

Important areas, such as the Main Office, have no clear, identifiable signage and are easily passed by when people are looking for them. 

Cluttered spaces at entryways are missed opportunities that could be used as a placemaker for the building and its students and faculty.

An Attempt at Putting the "Art" Back in the Art building

After we had defined the major problems with the space, we created a problem statement that would guide us in our design process. We wanted to design a Placemaking/Wayfinding system that would create an environment that was less dull & more inviting, had a sense of place and personality, and kept true to the existing architectural features that complimented the building. 

The Birth of the Fractured Grid System

We started our design process by exploring and studying a cohesive design system that could offer personality to the art building by represent-ing its students and the large variety of creative practices housed in the college of fine art. After refining our studies, we decided on a fragmented grid system.

- The fragmented grid acts as an abstract representation of the different students of all artistic backgrounds coming together to form the College of Fine Arts.

- It adds color to the darkly lit and heavy building features, and allows for wayfinding signage to be dispersed throughout the building. 

- It creates visual points of interest without overpowering existing architectural elements

Finalized grid form variation

Final color, Magical SW #c0afcf

Final grid working with brutalist
materials found in building

Solution (aka The Grid in Action)

Main Office Elevation

The main office is currently an extremely uninviting space and often overcrowded with posters. 

With our EGD system, the grid would replace unattractive fencing, and offer a sense of dynamic visuals, it would also offer a specific space for a limited amount fliers.

Directional Wayfinding Pilars Elevation

Long, dark hallways can be confusing, and there is no signage system for visitors. Many areas, like corner columns, that would benefit from wayfinding signage, do not have any.

By using the fractured grid system we were able to create simple, yet interesting forms that worked to deliver directional wayfinding. 

Placemaker Elevation

Many areas of the art building are cluttered with posters. These areas look overwhelming, and overcrowd the space. Areas like this would be good opportunities to create placemakers that represent the students and faculty, and offer more personality to the building. 

Our proposal used spaces like this for placemakers. This placemaker uses our fractured grid system to display a variety of different mediums that are used throughout the building, coming together to form the Department of Art & Art History. 


Applying our design system to the entire building.

Using Format