Student-Built TREExOFFICE Returns Home to CU Boulder​


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There’s a new office space on the CU Boulder campus that anyone can use. The rental is free, the WI-FI works great and, being outdoors, the views are spectacular.

The office wraps around a Linden tree and includes a custom-designed wood and metal conference table and six custom desks.  A sculptural steel screen that is both functional and artistic colorfully reflects the sun’s rays and protect users from the wind. The tree’s canopy serves as the roof.

Called TREExOFFICE or TxO, the structure was inspired by 2015-16 visiting artist Natalie Jeremijenko and designed and built by the university’s Program in Environmental Design (ENVD) students under the guidance of ENVD senior instructor Marcel de Lange. The project was built in collaboration with Marda Kirn, the executive director for EcoArts Connections, and David Dadone, executive director of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA).

“The tree office demonstrates the design skills and workmanship of ENVD students,” said Brian Muller, Community Engagement, Design and Research Center (CEDaR) faculty director.  “It’s wonderful to see the tree office on the CU Boulder campus, and it’s a testament to what our students can do for the university and Boulder community.”

To celebrate its opening and to honor the ENVD students who built it, CEDaR and EcoArts Connections are throwing a neighborhood party, which will include entertainment, food and presentations by Emma Hardy's Beetles and CU Boulder’s Department of Theatre & Dance. Short presentations by departments housed in adjacent buildings will introduce campus neighbors to each other and the surrounding Boulder community.

Originally located in Civic Area Park across from BMoCA under a temporary permit, TxO was in November moved to an open space area on campus north of the Fleming Law Building and south of Kittredge West and Kittredge Central.  The university hopes the co-working space will serve as a place where campus and community neighbors connect and thrive.

“Students continually ask for quality exterior spaces in which to work or gather, and the TxO is a perfect fit,”  said Richelle Reilly, campus landscape architect in the university’s Office of Planning, Design & Construction. “Locating the office near the Kittredge residential neighborhood is a way to encourage social gathering and activate the Kittredge lawn.”

Designed with nature in mind

To design the TxO, students from the ENVD program incorporated Jeremijenko’s concept of connecting humans to natural systems, as well as de Lange’s ideas about communities, fabrication strategies and cutting edge design, said Daniel Kelso, an ENVD student who worked on the TxO. In addition, students also considered the potential environmental effects, such as the drying power of the sun, as well as considered real world objectives, such as deadlines, budgets, building permits and zoning codes, he said.

De Lange said his ENVD design-build classes expose students to cutting edge ideas around digital design and fabrication. The classes use 3-D printing and computer numerically controlled processes (CNC) with machines that either laser cut or use water beams to slice through steel.

“The TREExOFFICE  was a great vehicle to demonstrate these technologies,” de Lange said. “It highlighted a modular, kit-of-parts strategy that can be manufactured offsite and reduces waste by optimizing the amount and use of materials,” he said.

He added that the kit-of-parts can be reproduced (digitally fabricated) and shipped to under-privileged communities.

An EcoArts Connections volunteer with a bachelor’s in forestry first identified 11 suitable sites and created a booklet from which campus officials decided on the new location. Kirn, who raised funds to build the TxO, said she was very pleased about TxO’s new location.

"It's a wonderful new gathering place for people from a wide variety of disciplines to come together and spark new friendships, collaborations, ideas, inventions and more," Kirn said.

Businesses and city groups can conduct meetings and groups and individuals can use the space to perform. Starting April 15, users will be able to reserve a desk, conference table or the entire TxO through CEDaR’s website. Spaces not reserved may be used at any time on a first-come, first-served basis.

TxO was originally permitted as a temporary art installation under Boulder’s Office of Art and Culture, and was funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Boulder Library Foundation, as well as in-kind contributions from numerous community partners. It was originally part of a three-part project called DESIGNxBOULDER: Inspiring Community through Art, a collaboration between BMoCA and EcoArts Connections in partnership with CU Boulder’s Program in Environmental Design.

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