Interactive architecture exhibit mirrors Las Vegas

Margit Gutmair

A modified roulette wheel and bingo board contribute to the casino-style exhibition by nine University students in the Architecture Building courtyard.
The collection of interactive architecture pieces, titled “Work on the Table,” is comprised of new tools designed by graduate architecture students who used them to perform a site analysis of Las Vegas.
“Architecture involves more than pictures of buildings,” said Romano Nickerson, a University graduate design student who participated in the exhibit. “It involves choices and forces for the city to exist.”
Because the exhibit is interactive, it mirrors the common link between Las Vegas and architecture: Both were designed to be seen from the inside as well as externally.
“Las Vegas is exotic, foreign and financially accessible enough to give students an experience like study abroad,” said Robert Adams, the architecture instructor who took the students to Las Vegas in January. “Basically, if you study architecture, you need to study Las Vegas.”
Studying an urban landscape in the middle of the desert gave the students an opportunity to look beyond superficial appearances at what lies underneath the sands and sites of Las Vegas.
Design student Marcus Webb posed the question: “What do and don’t you see?” In a city of facades, signs and decorations, it is important to see past the cosmetic characteristics to see the casino experience, he said.
“The casino is designed to purposefully deceive you, to keep you lost and confused inside,” said graduate student Kristen Paulsen, who created the perceptual probe.
Both the casino and the desert have layers of information, constantly in motion and in need of unfolding, said graduate student Mike Kumpula. Unfolding that motion and how it creates ideas of memory in architecture is what he wanted to capture in his sketches.
“The exhibition is a new way of approaching design and how we look at documenting the built and unbuilt environment,” said architecture senior Edie Cizio.
Designing their own tools allowed the students to uncover elements of the desert landscape and the casino strip. The students spent three-and-a-half days observing the strip and another one-and-a-half days in the desert.
“The tool is more than a device for measuring and recording information; it becomes a game,” said graduate student Lynn Lehman.
The public can view the gamelike exhibition, as well as physically try on, interact with and experience the student-designed tools. Having an experiential aspect of doing a site analysis is an important part to understanding not just what architecture is but how it works.
Steven Lai, Sue Le, Jackie Millea and Kelly Rath also participated in the exhibit, which runs through March 3.