Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
Competition Winner, design and construction of a Mail-Slot System, 400 sf
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.
Hansy Better Barraza
Anthony J. Piermarini
Exploring New Possibilities
Collectivity & Innovation
Steel Wall with Laser Cut Panels
Physical Meets Digital
Matrix of LEDs
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.