Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture
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The Euphorium

The Euphorium

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA - Fall 2016
Disney Imaginations Competition 2016 - Semifinalist
In collaboration with Varun Gadh, Tiffany Jiang, and Felipe Oropeza


This project is, at its core, a case of concepts brought to life. In an intentional parallel of the overwhelming motivation in Disney’s stories and structures, our team aimed to inspire in a fantastical way. Our motivating factors for design decisions were joy, distraction, and change. These factors were, in turn, built off of two primary philosophies: Disney’s design principles (including Walt Disney’s ten principles of user experience), and the roots of the project title:

Euphoria: A feeling of well-being or elation.
Utopia: A place of ideal well-being, as a practical aspiration.
Imaginarium: A place devoted to the imagination.

Throughout the course of the project, we’ve focused on our fundamental tenets, building joy – sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit - into each facet of our design, constructing our main features around distraction from stresses, and incorporating changing features and forms into the design of the space. These ideas have guided us through the different options and iterations we faced, and they’ve come through in the final product.



As we began exploring potential stories for our structure, we focused on two primary facets of the prompt: creating a new outdoor space, and providing a respite from the stresses of college life. At our university, outdoor spaces are functionally unused for about six months every year due to extreme cold weather. Creating a new outdoor space presents a challenge: any new space must account for the discomfort of the winter and take full advantage of the summer. We decided to solve this problem in two ways. First, we designed spaces that change shape and function to account for the seasonal shifts. Second, we created a structure with multiple modes of interaction with the outdoors, making the Euphorium enjoyable year-round. To address the stresses of college life, we realized the Euphorium needed to distract, and to encourage purely fun, non-competitive activities. To learn more about how people respond to their environments and deal with stress, we took a survey of 85 university members. From the responses, we learned that there are essentially two categories of stress relief; excitement and relaxation. As we iterated features, we realized that the Euphorium would serve these ideas best with futuristic forms that encourage change.



Waves of students and professors rush about campus  between stressful classes and tiring study sessions. Suddenly, out of the corner of their eye, something grabs their attention: an immense cantilevered structure shooting out of the ground, students playing in an augmented reality world on it. Visitors, exhausted from school and work, curiously wander up to the shifting field of tiles on the ground they soon learn is called “the Dreamscape.”  They then head indoors, into the Looking Glass, where they can experience the wonder, beauty, and freedom of the outdoors without being subjected to brutal cold, or sweltering heat. A glass-enclosed area with built-in seating designed to encourage social interaction, the Looking Glass encourages them to relax and enjoy the sensation of being outdoors without the corresponding struggles. Strolling through the Looking Glass and up stairs along which the wall becomes the floor, visitors are faced with the Rabbit Hole: a tunnel back to the outside filled with colors and transforming room contours.  The Rabbit Hole that serves simultaneously as a meditative space and a stimulating sensory environment. Back outside, visitors can follow a staircase up to the Secret Garden on the roof of the structure and enjoy a sunset with their friends, gazing out over campus from a peaceful, private overlook. Overall, the Euphorium provides a captivating, diverse array of experiences to help students, faculty, visitors, and staff distract themselves and de-stress along the way.