Colorful wave of pencils at the University of Minnesota

The Centennial Chromagraph is a life-size representation of the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. The project is an exercise in data spatialization: using computational design tools to generate formal and spatial constructions with large quantities of data—in this case, information collected over the 100-year history of UMN’s architecture school.

The installation consists of 100 robotically-routed plywood ribs, joined together with 8,080 colored #2 pencils. The curvature of the ribs expresses major historical eras and periods of the School—the tenures of its leadership, the buildings it has occupied, the colleges it has belonged to—while the color of the pencils reflects the changing composition of the School’s degree programs over the past century. For example, the tenure of Ralph Rapson as head of the School of Architecture is evident in the large thirty-year curve that swells out in the center of the piece. Similarly, the prevalence of the Bachelor of Architecture degree, which began in the 1930s and lasted until the late 1990s, is legible in the large number of red pencils that extend across that 60-year period.

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