Studio Luz Architecture and Urban Design

Harvard
Mailboxes

HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF DESIGN, CAMBRIDGE, MA

Competition Winner, design and construction of a Mail-Slot System, 400 sf
Completion: 1999

Project Overview

This project explores new territories and possibilities in the typology of the mailbox system while satisfying the traditional needs of physical mail collection center. The project was the first-place winner of a design-build competition at The Harvard Design School.

Project Team

Hansy Better Barraza
Anthony J. Piermarini
Michael Cosmas

LED Technology

Michael Schroeder

Photography

Anita Kan

Exploring New Possibilities

COLLECTIVITY & INNOVATION

The system explores new possibilities of the mailbox system while serving traditional ones. By presenting itself as a physical matrix of the student body, the conventional mailbox system unfolds a unique and exciting moment: a moment of collectivity.

MODERN AESTHETIC

STEEL WALL WITH LASER CUT PANELS

Steel panels were laser cut from digital templates, folded and welded at the corners, and sequentially bolted together to construct a continuous three-dimensional face.

PHYSICAL MEETS DIGITAL

MATRIX OF LEDS

In addition to the physical mail slots, the system deploys a digital expression: a matrix of LEDs corresponding with each mail slot and linked to a computer.
Harvard Mailboxes - Plans
Harvard Mailboxes Mailslots
Harvard Mailboxes - Detail
Harvard Mailboxes Mailslots Diagram
Harvard Mailboxes Mailslots Face
Harvard Mailboxes View
Harvard Mailboxes - Under Construction
Harvard Mailboxes Construction
Harvard Mailboxes - Color Tone

About the Mail-Slot System

AT THE HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF DESIGN

Designed and completed just before the new millennium, this mail-slot system was a response to the prevailing internet age, the traditional process of physical mail distribution, and the relational nature of receiving and transmitting information. By presenting itself as a physical matrix of the student body, the conventional mailbox system unfolds a unique and exciting moment: a moment of collectivity. This system deploys both a physical expression (a steel wall with approximately 320 mail slots) and a digital expression (a matrix of LEDs corresponding with each mail slot and linked to a computer). The computer interface allows a user to identify and select a subset of mailboxes (a class, an interest group, a sports team) from a touch-screen database and, once selected, the LEDs illuminate the corresponding mail slots. The wall works as an integrated surface in which the vertical and horizontal flanges provide structural integrity. Panels were laser cut from digital templates, folded and welded at the corners, and sequentially bolted together to construct a continuous three-dimensional face. The steel wall is activated by a series of mail slots, creating a matrix of “receptors.”
In addition to purely pragmatic scenarios, the system can accommodate other more sophisticated uses, such as the notification of receipt of e-mail or voicemail. The applications of this expanded system as a locational and relational device are limitless. The LED matrix can host anything from digital “shows” to virtual voting sessions. The array of lights continuously maps and re-maps organizational systems. Previously unseen relationships gain visibility through this juxtaposition; new relationships and transmissions are solicited by it.

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