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University of Michigan architecture students, faculty create socially distanced courtyard

Faculty, students and staff at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning created a "socially distanced" courtyard installation for the U-M Art and Architecture building.
Faculty, students and staff at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning created a "socially distanced" courtyard installation for the U-M Art and Architecture building. (E.Bronson/Michigan Photography)

ANN ARBOR – On a typical fall day, art and architecture students are seen socializing and studying in the University of Michigan’s Art and Architecture Building courtyard.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we gather, so students and staff at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning found a creative way to transform the popular space.

A team created two large tables that allow up to 12 people to sit while still adhering to the latest health and safety guidelines.

“The social distancing challenges of the pandemic are amplified in design education, which relies heavily on collaborative, spontaneous and interactive exchanges in studio and classroom environments,” Anya Sirota, associate dean for academic initiatives and associate professor who helped develop the design, said in a statement.

“One response to this dilemma was to harness our own disciplinary expertise to create a more engaging, empathetic spatial experience, which despite some very real constraints, rings true to our collective culture.”

Faculty, students and staff at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning created a "socially distanced" courtyard installation for the U-M Art and Architecture building.
Faculty, students and staff at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning created a "socially distanced" courtyard installation for the U-M Art and Architecture building. (E.Bronson/Michigan Photography)

The students and faculty designed the tables with support from Taubman College’s Digital Fabrication Lab and woodshop.

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The tables are clover-shaped and are modular so that they can become smaller medium-sized ovals or standalone individual tables.

Some classes are taught using the tables, which also offer an informal gathering space for groups wanting to socially distance.

“The table will be useful now, and it will be useful a year from now -- it’s not a pandemic-specific artifact," Jacob Comerci, academic innovation program manager, said in a statement. "That said, social distancing guidelines acted as a productive constraint, inflecting our design decisions. When the table is reconfigured, it will allow us to get nearer; when aggregated, the table’s scale and geometry intuitively inform us how to stay safe while being together. The outcome is informal, economical and droll.”

Students and faculty at Taubman College and the Stamps School can book the tables through Oct. 29.


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