Students design and create a mural in the atrium of the Irving Institute

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A Design Corps team worked with the Irving Institute and the Office of Sustainability to commission a mural depicting the building’s energy and sustainability features.

by Arielle Feuerstein | 07/29/22 01:00

Mural by a student artist in the Irving Building

In the fall of 2021, a team of students were given a challenge: how could they make the Irving Institute for Energy and Society’s energy efficiency more visible to everyday visitors to the building? In response, the team commissioned a mural, which a group of student artists then conceptualized in the spring. The mural is now on public view in the atrium of the Irving Center.

“The Irving Institute is the most efficient building on campus; it has all these fun and cool new features that make it super amazing, but no one would really see it or really know if you just walked into the building on your own,” said Avery Hormaechea ’24, the one of the student commissioners.

Hormaechea is a member of Design Corps, a design initiative program at the Thayer School of Engineering in Dartmouth. The program connects teams of students wishing to apply engineering and design thinking skills with clients on campus. This particular team of students – consisting of Hormaechea, Kiera Bernet ’23 and Sanne Schouten ’23 – was paired with the Irving Center and the Office of Sustainability. Irving Institute Academic Director Amanda Graham and Dartmouth Sustainability Director Rosi Kerr asked the Design Corps team to “present the efficiency of the Irving building,” according to Schouten.

Once the team had their brief, they first conducted research to find out what the building’s most interesting features were and how best to communicate them to their audience, according to Hormaechea. The team spoke with people who work at the Irving Institute, students who frequent the building, and various design professors before settling on the idea for a mural.

Their research also revealed four key elements of the Irving Institute that the team wanted to highlight in the mural, Hormaechea said. According to the statement from the mural’s curators, authored by the Design Corps Irving Institute and Office of Sustainability team, the four characteristics are: 91% of Irving Institute workspaces are naturally lit; the glass façade draws in air using fans — without expending energy — to function as a natural ventilation system; the building’s heating and cooling system is water-based, and the building regulates temperature and airflow using automation.

Once the Design Corps team decided to showcase these four concepts in a mural, they asked student artists to update the project in the spring. The design process for the mural took about a month, and painting the mural took about a week, according to Hormaechea.

“There were seven artists who then created the final design and then installed it,” Hormaechea said. “They did all the actual creation of the design, and we just helped them through the process, giving them feedback.”

Courtesy of Avery Hormaechea ’24

Harrison Munden ’23, one of the artists, described the mural as featuring many “moving hands”.

“We wanted it to be free and fluid and to feel like it was a community – that’s why we have all these hands working together [on the mural]”, said Munden. “And they flow into the paint because we are the spaces that we create.”

Munden explained that the artists wanted the mural to be abstract in order to represent the creativity and “risk” that the Irving Institute embodies.

“I know that switching to a hot water heating system is a huge risk for Dartmouth, as it requires new pipes and a completely new heating system, but it is more efficient in the future and can save a lot of money. money,” Munden said. “That kind of thinking is something we wanted to keep in this painting, which is why we went this more abstract way instead of something more traditional.”

The latest iteration of the mural features many bright and contrasting colors. According to Munden, the artists chose to use bright colors in order to ensure that the mural would pop”

“The background for the mural was going to be frosted glass…so we went for more vibrant colors and wanted it to grab your attention,” Munden said.

According to Sam Miller ’24, another artist, the only challenge he encountered while painting the mural was the difficulty of working on a glass surface.

“It takes a long time to paint on glass and make layers of paint appear and not translucent – ​​to just be a solid color. It took a lot of coats and it took a long time,” Miller said.

Hormaechea noted that she was grateful the mural provided a unique space on campus to display student art.

“We also learned through this research process that there just weren’t a lot of spaces on campus for student artists to showcase their work and have it displayed…so that was really cool to… have the opportunity to [students] share their work,” Hormaechea said.

The mural is a temporary element, according to Hormaechea. However, she noted that the Irving Institute and the Office of Sustainability have expressed some interest in continuing to hire students to design murals for the space. Miller shared strong support for this idea.

“I really think that should continue and they should continue to hire student artists to do this because it really makes the space feel more like the students and the community belong,” Miller said.



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