Architecture students create Mobius Lynx

At the start of every academic year, CU Denver Student Life and Campus Community hosts New Student Convocation, which serves as the official welcome to all new students on campus. This year, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Raul Cardenas had a vision to engage our current students while also warmly welcoming the new ones.

This vision mobilized a student effort that was to become an arched and artistic plaza centerpiece. The installation, constructed with over 250 individual pieces, would later be christened with a rather mystical moniker — Mobius Lynx. Our College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) students are becoming quite renowned for hands-on installation projects around the city, including Denver’s first-ever pop-up park.

For Mobius Lynx, 25 undergraduate CAP students participated in the eye-grabbing installation. The students had a three-week timeline to design and build a seating gathering structure on the plaza of the new Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center.

Mobius Lynx gathering spot
Students constructed the outdoor gathering spot from over 250 pieces of Baltic birch plywood.

The robust schedule allowed for maximized learning experience for the CAP students. In week one, they formed groups and created initial design proposals that were presented to a final review board comprised of Cardenas and representatives from the Office of Institutional Planning and the Student Wellness Center. In just one week, students finalized the design and created a life-scale prototype section.

Parametric design

The design is a cross-sectional profile that rotates 360 degrees around a 20-foot diameter circle. At one moment the circle form is elevated to create an arch entrance, while on the opposing end the circle dives into the ground to create a second opening. The outdoor gathering space was constructed from three-quarter-inch Baltic birch plywood. The parametric model included changing densities of the waffle structure along the contoured X and Y-axis directions.

POP-UP ON THE PLAZA

The #MobiusLynx pop-up will be on exhibit for three months in the new plaza. At the end of October, the structure may be relocated elsewhere on campus and/or disassembled and all material will be donated to CU Denver students.

Within the seating section area, the density was compressed to allow for the seating space to be under three inches in order to establish a more ergonomic form. The notched waffled structural system is comprised of nearly 2,492 connections that are .78mm (which reflects the strut material thickness).

Fabrication build

Our tech-savvy students generated an alphanumeric grid to organize the interlocking structural system. The students labeled every notch in order to maintain overall organization and to ease the assembly process. Sheet layout was conducted to minimize overall plywood waste. A computer numeric control (CNC) machine utilizing a router cut over 250 individual pieces. The assembly began in the north entrance and followed the clockwise direction.

The assembly process involved all lower pieces to be installed first so that the slotted connections would coincide. Pan head self-drilling screws along with Simpson A23 hanger brackets were used to reinforce the arch. A water repelling/UV protecting wood sealant was applied to the material for outdoor weather protection. The sealer stained the material with a tint of gold, while the brackets were painted black to highlight the University of Colorado’s school colors and emphasize CU Denver community pride. The installation occurred over a period of two days.

WHAT STUDENTS SAID …

“I am extremely grateful for the experience and how much I learned in these short (but amazing) three weeks. Learning what goes into pushing a design further into something viable will help throughout my academic career and beyond. It was incredible to learn the many stages and levels of detail needed to build a physical structure that met ‘the client’s’ demands.” — Justin Watson

“I learned so much from this course that I am certain I would not be able to experience from a classroom setting. If anything, this project and the hectic but exciting three weeks has driven me that much more to become an architect. I’ve told just about everyone I know to go check out what we’ve made!” — Natalie Espino

Guest contributor: This article was written by Maria Delgado, PhD, an instructor in the College of Architecture and Planning.

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