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Stillwater, Oklahoma

University Campus Highlight Gathering Space

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An identity is best formed, not by those that will see it and use it for reference, but rather by those who embody it and shape it from its very beginnings.

Like a seed firmly taking root in its surrounding soil, an identity is a product of time and care. However, with a single word or action, a long-standing identity can be shaken and a new one will grow in its place. Take steel, for example. It has been known for its cold, lifeless strength since its conception. Now, though, it has been reborn.


With this assembly space, steel is no longer inanimate. Instead, it has been endowed with a spark of life and has ran free with it. Supple, flowing ribbons of stainless steel surround a single steel spine, from which magnificent, organic, leaf-like structures sprout to enclose a space of assembly and wonder. 

Sculptor Richard Serra emphasizes the importance of an individual’s experience and how it should be shaped by his works. This assembly space contrasts that approach. By their nature, the gathering spaces are purely a reactionary result of a “naturally occurring” steel form. As one enters the open lawn upon exiting Engineering South, their path is directed by the immense steel curves around them. Whether they wish to stop in one alcove or another is up to them, but their path to any of the many destinations is dictated by the twisting ribbons of steel that call the site home.

The steel ribbons wander about like roots searching for a firm hold, creating alcove spaces to foster visitors’ gathering nature. Many of the large alcoves provide benches for relaxation and contemplation. Even in such a dynamic environment, solace and rest are available at nearly every turn. Not only do these ribbons shape “internal space,” but they serve as a mechanism for seclusion as well. Their seemingly constant elevation change creates physical barriers so that, even within the borders of an open grass lawn, a visitor can find personal retreat.

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