The commemorative piece to highlight Penn State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion will be designed by Juan Ruescas, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, the University Commemorative Committee announced. The landmark “All In” piece, which will evoke a forest with tree elements of different heights and sizes inviting the visitor into a clearing, will be located on the eastern side of Old Main on the University Park campus.
The piece is part of “All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion,” the University’s ongoing initiative to demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The piece will be designed to encourage dialogue, celebrate diversity and provoke thought, and is intended to create a permanent representation of the University’s achievements and aspirations.
“Diversity is such an important part of who we are at Penn State — diversity of people, backgrounds, opinions, races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, research and perspectives,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “This beautiful creative piece will underscore what we mean when we say ‘We Are Penn State’ and encourage all members of the community to ‘Be who you are. Together.’”
The work will feature many vertical elements, which will be constructed of steel with rusted “bark” on the outside and a mirroring effect on the inside, calling to mind trees. The “trees” will encircle a space, welcoming visitors to enter the area to see their own reflections, mixed with the reflections of those around them.
Designer Ruescas said the tree elements will create a “sunflower effect” — their reflective ‘faces’ turned inward.
“The visitor is received by a clearing in the forest only to discover that they are part of it — a growing community. The space makes no distinction. All actors, all spectators of a universal celebration,” Ruescas noted in his design proposal.
The featured “trees” will be of different widths and heights — ranging to upwards of 20 feet and spreading out from the central clearing. The piece will incorporate words or phrases that reflect the meaning of diversity and inclusion at Penn State. The design also incorporates the trees that are currently on the site east of Old Main.
Ruescas also will be working with the campuses to see how the idea for reflective trees can be incorporated into their landscapes in connection with the original commemorative piece.
A registered architect in Spain, Ruescas used parametric programming, a type of computer programming with mathematical optimization that allows all dimensions to automatically recalculate. The use of the programming in the design allows for the exact placement and positioning of the trees to achieve a natural feeling through a casual, yet balanced, array of trees.
"If we are fortunate, visitors won’t see individual trees. Instead, they will experience the forest: reflections of individuality that create a space for the collective,” – Juan Ruescas
Ruescas, who currently holds the Stuckeman Career Development Professorship in Design at Penn State, has a doctorate in architectural design from E.T.S.A.M., Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid, Universidad Politécnica, in Madrid, Spain.
The piece’s design will be informed by contributions from members of the community about what diversity and inclusion mean to them. As part of the design process, the University committee asked students, faculty and staff to submit thoughts about what being “All In” means. Nearly 200 submissions were received, including contributions from student groups, individual students, faculty and staff.
“By constructing this landmark commemorative piece in the center of the University Park campus, Penn State is highlighting the importance it places on diversity, equity and inclusion in our community,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity and chairman of the Commemorative Committee. “This piece will continue to spark conversations and encourage members of our community to reflect on what makes them feel part of the community and what they can do to make others feel included.”
The Commemorative Committee selected Ruescas’s proposal after putting out an international call for artists and reviewing submissions and receiving feedback from the Penn State community, including student organizations and representatives.
Construction on the project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018.